MarBorg Industries, the largest provider of recycling services in the Santa Barbara area, recently began construction on a 75,000-square-foot recycling facility.

Derek Carlson, MarBorg business manager, said the $5 million facility will be located next to the company’s existing construction and debris (C&D) recycling center. When the addition is completed in 2005, the facility will occupy two blocks on Quarantina Street in downtown Santa Barbara, and will process as much as 200,000 tons of waste per year.

Carlson said 85 percent of all incoming waste could be recycled in the new facility, which is expected to process approximately 750 tons of waste per day. Because recycling only accounts for a relatively small portion of MarBorg’s profits, the new facility is not essential to the company’s operations. He said the facility is only meant to boost the level of recycling in Santa Barbara County.

“It is a huge investment, and it’s really done with a long-term vision in mind,” Carlson said.

The existing open-air C&D center will also be renovated to comply with new regulations that require such facilities to be enclosed.

Leslie Wells, program coordinator for the County Integrated Waste Management Plan (CIWMP), said there was initially some doubt about the future of the recycling center when the enclosure regulations were announced. The center, which is currently the mainstay of MarBorg’s recycling operations, accounts for about 20 percent of the waste diverted by the county. Wells said that if the facility closed it would have dealt a severe blow to recycling efforts in the area.

“Certainly, MarBorg’s facility is an integral part of the county’s recycling program,” Wells said. “We were concerned about losing that asset, but now we are excited to see that not only will it be staying open, they are going to be expanding.”

According to the CIWMP, which was passed by the California Legislature in 1989, all counties must divert at least 50 percent of their waste away from landfills and into recycling programs by the year 2000. A study by the Santa Barbara County Public Works Dept. in 2002 showed that 59 percent of local trash is reused or recycled. California’s average diversion rate is 42 percent.

The C&D center can currently process 500 tons of waste per day. Carlson said converting the C&D center to an enclosed facility will have the benefit of increasing the amount of waste it can handle by nearly 50 percent. The conversion will allow the center to separate and divert commercial recycling loads as well as residential waste. This is a significant achievement because recent recycling efforts directed at businesses have not been particularly successful, Carlson said.

“Commercial recycling programs have not been nearly as effective as residential programs,” he said. “In general, residential programs result in nearly 50 percent waste recycled, while commercial ones only do about 15 percent.”

Carlson said many recycling centers do not accept commercial waste because it is difficult to separate unless businesses have strict policies on recycling.

“It’s just a lot tougher,” he said. “There’s a lot more waste to separate and a lot more people to supervise.”