FORT BRAGG, CA, 4/26/23 — A mobile buyback pilot project on the Mendocino Coast will be in place by the end of May, a Redwood Waste Solutions representative told The Mendocino Voice this week. That news has been anxiously awaited by Fort Bragg residents and others up and down the coast, who have been without a buyback center since the closure of the Pudding Creek transfer station.
On Apr. 6, 5th District Supervisor Ted Williams announced that Mendocino County and the City of Fort Bragg had been awarded one of the ten available Beverage Container Recycling Pilot Projects by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).
“Given the difficulty in locating and permitting a permanent center, this appeared as a better approach,” he told The Voice in an email. “Hopefully it means fewer miles overall for residents.”
Each of these pilot projects around the state devises a system operators believe will work best for their area, RWS Education and Outreach Manager Michelle Goodman told The Voice this week. In Mendocino County, mobile centers will be stationed at the Mendocino K-8 school, the Caspar Community Center, and the Fort Bragg Food Bank. All will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with the Mendocino and Caspar locations open Sunday and Monday. Fort Bragg’s dates of operation are yet to be finalized.
The centers collect beverage containers redeemable for California Redemption Value (CRV) under the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act. Buyback at these centers will be available not only to coastal residents, but to anyone who’d like to use them.
“We’re going to do our best to collect as much as humanly possible,” Goodman explained. “But we’re going to be using a mobile scale and we’re not going to have huge boxes there with us — we’re going to probably be using a front load truck or our one roll-off [bin]. … Nobody is operating in the same way that we’re planning on operating, and so as you can imagine, we’re doing a little bit of trial and error. We think that this is going to work, but what I tell you now might not be exactly what we’re doing a month from now.”
The pilot project is not meant to be a permanent solution, Goodman confirmed. Retailers that sell CRV-redeemable beverages would have faced charges of $100 per day beginning this June should the convenience zone have remained without a buyback center.
A mobile solution offers RWS time to establish a permanent center — which has been no easy task. In the fall, RWS explored buying the old transfer station at Pudding Creek from the county’s former hauler, Waste Management (WM). But WM said it would not sell the former site “in hopes of returning to serve the community.” Staff had explored 20 different locations since the summer, per an announcement in March.
RWS is now looking more closely at two different properties as potential locations for a more permanent buyback center, Goodman said, but nothing has been finalized. This is in part because many sites would require a Coastal Development Permit, and the facility also has to keep a certain distance from residential areas.
“We’re waiting on some approvals,” she said. “I hope to have a permanent facility — that’s what we’ve always wanted.”
Goodman said RWS is excited to have mobile centers in place, and is “putting the pedal to the metal to make it happen” in a timely fashion.
“When we do open, just know that we’re doing our best,” she said. “We’re going to try to make this as seamless of a process as possible.”
Note: Kate Fishman covers the environment & natural resources for The Mendocino Voice in partnership with a Report For America. Her position is funded by the Community Foundation of Mendocino, Report for America, & our readers. You can support Fishman’s work with a tax-deductible donation here or by emailing [email protected]. Contact her at KFishman@mendovoice.com or at (707) 234-7735. The Voice maintains editorial control and independence.