A locked gate guards the Blue Mountain Transfer Station on Blue Mountain Road east of Port Angeles on Tuesday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

A locked gate guards the Blue Mountain Transfer Station on Blue Mountain Road east of Port Angeles on Tuesday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Glass recycling shutdown

Six-week closure for transfer site

PORT ANGELES — Glass recycling services and a solid-waste transfer station were shut down Tuesday while Port Angeles Public Works adjusts to taking over garbage collection and recycling duties from Texas-based Waste Connections of Washington.

Public Works Director Thomas Hunter’s presentation Tuesday at the Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting included an update on city solid waste services and a Lincoln Street safety project that has slowed traffic on a major city thoroughfare — and cost some parking spaces.

A mediator resolved a termination-of-contract dispute over solid waste and recycling collection services with Waste Connections Jan. 18, which led to the city’s March 1 takeover of the company’s waste and recycling collection duties.

The Blue Mountain Transfer Station on Blue Mountain Road will be closed for about six weeks while the city purchases new equipment, a process slowed by supply-chain issues, Hunter said, adding Waste Connections would not lease or sell its apparatus to the city.

Under the severed contract, the company transported glass recyclables from Port Angeles, a service that the city will not be providing for the foreseeable future until a market is found for the refuse, Hunter said.

As a result, giant dumpsters for recycled glass that sat behind AutoZone Auto Parts and Country Aire Natural Foods in Port Angeles were removed as of Tuesday, leaving Port Angeles- and Sequim-area residents the option of reusing glass containers or throwing them away.

Other recycling services for paper and plastic will remain, although some changes may be coming for cardboard recycling.

“So right now, we’re not changing anything, but we do see significant opportunity for service improvement, and glass and cardboard are the two we’re working on right now,” he said.

Hunter said a major problem encountered by Port Angeles’ recycling program is China’s “China Sword” policy that banned importation of certain recyclable materials and set strict contamination limits on other materials.

“That really threw recycling nationally into a tailspin,” Hunter said, recalling his Feb. 15 presentation to the city council.

“We went before council and just talked about the fact that the only glass recycler in Washington state was not accepting glass at the time we went in and did that evaluation,” he said.

“Now I can tell you that we plan to bring back some options relative to the glass recycling stream to council in the next couple of months, and I think there’s going to be some exciting opportunities there, but it does beg a question of what was happening to the glass for the last couple of years,” he told the PABA.

“Really icky questions we don’t want to talk about as much as we want to talk about the future moving forward.”

Hunter said in a later interview that he “can’t speak to how” Waste Connections was recycling its glass.

“I can’t comment on what Waste Connections was doing with [the] glass,” Hunter said.

Jefferson County Solid Waste Manager Al Cairns said Tuesday the county successfully runs a curbside glass recycling program that relies on residents to ensure clean glass is recycle, removing contamination that can severely hamper the success of such programs.

Jefferson County’s discarded household glass is recycled by Strategic Materials, a Seattle company that turns the refuse into new bottles, Cairns said.

Asked about Jefferson County’s program, Hunter said following his presentation that Public Works staff is evaluating glass recycling options and will present them to the city council with operating costs.

“It is too preliminary to say what that looks like, but we are aware of who Jefferson County uses,” he said.

The 18th Street regional transfer station that had been operated by Waste Connections, taken over by the city for $3 million as part of the mediated resolution, will continue operating as it was and may eventually increase services, with the additional cost to be determined, Hunter said at the meeting.

“I think it’s likely that within the next six to 12 months, there will be some additional services that we bring before council,” he said.

Hunter said the changeover means more solid waste division employees are being hired, turning the smallest subagency in Public Works into the biggest “pretty quickly.”

Lincoln Street

He said supply-chain issues have delayed completion of the Lincoln Street safety project that has resulted in narrower traffic lanes near the county courthouse.

He said controllers on existing traffic signals will be upgraded in a $1.6 million project, $1.5 million of which is funded by the state Department of Transportation.

“One of the things that I can tell you about that corridor specifically is the sheer amount of near fatal misses that we had over time really informed us on the design, and we worked really, really hard with as many folks as we could to make sure that we were constructing facilities that weren’t going to create additional visual congestion,” Hunter said.

“The reality is, vehicles going slower is safer for pedestrians, and I think that we clearly heard from city council that that is a priority … to make sure that we have a community that’s walkable.”

Asked about the loss of parking spaces along Lincoln Street due to the project, Hunter said parking is critically important.

“Unfortunately, our right of ways just don’t have enough room to accommodate every need,” he said.

“When we go through a project like Lincoln, we do outreach to try and talk to all the affected partners or stakeholders in the corridor and get their feedback.

“Ultimately we’re not going to please everybody,” he said.

“I think that parking is just such a bigger conversation,” Hunter said.

“In some cases we did lose a little bit of parking, but ultimately I think that there was a healthy balance there.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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