The city of Tacoma has identified three potential sites to build recycling drop-off centers for glass products to replace its curbside pickup program.
One of those sites, in a right-of-way area on Browns Point Boulevard south of Broadmoor Drive in Northwest Tacoma, was placed on hold Thursday following public backlash.
More than 70 people submitted letters during the public comment process, arguing the drop-off center would cause noise, light pollution and increased traffic in an area of mostly single-family homes.
Under city code, the applicant — the city’s Public Works Department — has 120 days to re-start the application or it will expire.
The Browns Point Boulevard spot would provide bins for glass, cardboard and scrap metal and would be staffed and monitored daily for illegal dumping and broken glass.
The other proposed locations are in commercial areas:
Central Co-op, 4502 N. Pearl St. (glass only, unstaffed)
Hilltop Safeway, 1112 S. M St. (glass only, unstaffed)
The city’s Planning and Development Services Department is working towards issuing a decision in early October for the Safeway and Central Co-Op sites.
Other sites are under consideration, but city spokesperson Stacy Ellifrit said details cannot be shared because negotiations with property owners are not complete.
Why recycling centers?
Tacoma will soon be home to four or five glass recycling collection boxes.
The city embarked on a Recycle Reset project in 2019 that in part replaces curbside glass with drop-off centers. The change came after China changed which materials from the U.S. it would accept.
“How that translated into local programs is it made them more expensive,” said Preston Peck, city Recycle Reset lead. “When we recognized that we were looking at a potential $1.8 million deficit on our recycling program, we knew we had to make a change.”
The city gathered more than 7,000 responses to a survey. Most respondents said they wanted to keep some form of a glass recycling program and also increase education outreach. The city decided to do both.
Residents neighboring the proposed sites flooded a recent virtual forum to voice their concerns. While the meeting discussed all three sites, most spoke on the Browns Point location.
Linda Bailey was one of the speakers. She lives with her husband near the proposed site, having moved to the area from Gig Harbor a year and a half ago.
“Tacoma is at the entrance of Tuscany, a beautiful home district of over 200 homes,” Bailey said at a public meeting with the city on Sept. 3. “We would be devastated to have a commercial recycling site right at the entrance of our homes. The extra traffic would be detrimental to us, the noise of glass being dropped off and other noise would be horrible.”
Others pointed out that the curve of the road made it dangerous.
“Increasing traffic on Browns Point Boulevard by adding a recycling site is dangerous if significant traffic control devices and further efforts regarding vegetation and street repairs are not part of the plan,” said nearby resident Janna Stewart in a letter to the city. “I support the placement of a recycling site in NE Tacoma — but this is indisputably the worst possible place to put it.”
The Northeast Neighborhood Council and the nearby Tuscany at Northshore Country Club Homeowners Association also sent letters to the city.
“Placing a Recycling Drop Off Station in a residential area will have a detrimental effect on neighboring property values,” said HOA president William Salvesen in an Aug. letter to the city.
In response to concerns at the Sept. 3 virtual meeting, Peck said that an 8-inch rubber baffling will be placed on the containers to deter noise, smell and illegal dumping.
Peck said the city also tried to look at different locations in Northeast Tacoma, including the Center at Norpoint, but Metro Parks, which owns the facility, wasn’t interested.
“We tried to look at some places where people would normally go … and it just didn’t work out in that way,” Peck said. “We wanted to place it along a somewhat main thoroughfare in Northeast Tacoma where people would utilize it.”
Peck also addressed concerns about increased traffic and compromised sight lines at the Central Co-op location.
“I can assure you that the container is off the sidewalk and on the property of the Co-op itself and meets any kind of traffic requirements as far as maintaining that line of sight so people can safely make turns there,” he said.