The City of Santa Barbara stepped in to help clear up the confusion over the recycling program – or was there one? – at the Paseo Nuevo Mall. Numerous retailers this month signed a petition asking mall management for “an active recycling program” at the city’s largest mall and tourist draw. While acknowledging the Paseo’s cardboard recycling program, merchants said they also wanted to recycle plastic and glass. The business leading the lobbying effort, lululemon athletica, even had dancers in their display window on Earth Day to attract attention to the situation, while piling un-recycled recyclables in the middle of their floor. Matt Delasalle, owner of the lulelemon franchise, was hauling all of his store’s plastic packaging home to be picked up with his family’s commingled recyclables. A manager at Sephora, a cosmetics and beauty supply shop also in Paseo Nuevo, was doing the same.
News of the merchants’ complaints astonished mall management: Dumpsters for commingled recyclables-glass, plastic, metal, and paper-are available alongside the garbage-compactor in one of the mall’s three areas. Had the tenants brought the matter directly to the mall management, said general manager Tracy Pfautch, the matter could have been quickly resolved.
EnterLeif Skogberg, a recycling technician with the City of Santa Barbara’s Public Works Department, who started conducting shuttle diplomacy between retailers, mall managers, and the trash haulers on April 27. He discovered that much of the misunderstanding stems from the fact that some of the commingled recyclables dumpsters reside under a sign reading “cardboard only.”
That, along with earlier policy changes and lingering myths, gave rise to the belief among numerous merchants that only cardboard could be recycled, according to Skogberg. Contributing to the confusion was the fact that the Paseo Nuevo is situated on the border between the territories served by BFI and MarBorg; the city’s two waste collectors divide Paseo Nuevo’s waste-hauling duties between them. In addition, paperwork to which MarBorg office staff refers does not show commingled recycling charges as part of the contract with Paseo Nuevo; calls to the haulers yielded information that was confusing, at best.
The upshot is that mall management will clarify the current recycling arrangements-and that the mall’s recycling efforts have been re-energized as a result of the uproar. The petitioning merchants’ first concern was the availability of commingled recycling bins for them to use, but they also suggested that Paseo Nuevo follow the city’s lead by placing recycling containers along the mall’s walkways for customers to use. Pfautch said that Paseo Nuevo – whose owner of record is I&G Direct Real Estate 3, and whose tax bills are sent to JP Morgan – is interested in low-energy-use lighting and recycling bins in the walkways, though she noted that in order to do so the mall will have to go through the city’s architectural and historical landmarks review processes. Skogberg, who distinguished himself managing recycling programs at Santa Barbara City College before the city hired him as a sustainability technician, is willing and eager to help.