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City Charged New Recycling Fee

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Posted: Friday, February 1, 2019 1:45 am

Homestead City Manager George Gretsas explained the issues behind a new recycling contract at the Council meeting on January 16.

“There is no recommendation for an increase in recycling fees at this time,” Gretsas said. “The recyclable fee of $2.78 was set by Council in 2008, I think.”

The City’s past provider no longer accepts recyclables. The City twice advertised for providers but received no bids.

A new contract was negotiated with Waste Management for the company to process recyclables after drop off by the City. It will cost the City an additional $330,000 per year.

City crews would still pick up recyclable material (cans, bottles, paper, and cardboard) once a week. Household garbage would continue to be picked up twice a week.

“At issue is the problem of disposal, not collection,” said Gretsas.

Two televised videos were introduced to show the national impact of

rising recycling costs. China used to take 90% of trash recycled overseas but has instituted stricter guidelines. It now bans twenty-four types of scrap, such as paper and plastic that used to be accepted.

China only accepts imported garbage if it is clean and already sorted. Their standard is 0.5% contamination which a spokesman said was not possible.

Contamination of recyclable loads can occur with as little as a partially washed ketchup bottle. Gretsas said wet paper from a water bottle leaking also is considered a contaminated load. 

The video program said the change affects recycling programs in twenty-seven states and has had a dramatic impact on the entire waste industry and the prices charged.

“The City pays $61 per ton to dump currently,” said Gretsas. “The new contract commits to $100 per ton.”

He said trash disposal is determined by weight and by volume. Household garbage weighed 38.7 million tons in 2018 while recyclables weighed 6.6 million tons. However, recyclables were 45% of the volume of trash

versus 55% for household waste.

Gretsas said the City paid $514,000 in 2018 to collect trash plus another $200,000 for landfill dumping. The City collected about $795,000 from its monthly residential trash fees which covered costs plus gas, administration and capitalized equipment costs.

The Waste Management contract will cost per year is for the 17% by weight of trash collected that is recyclable.

In addition, the company will conduct an analysis of the recycling stream every six months, taking into account the “blended market value”. That value is based on recyclable market products offset by the non-recyclable material.

The contract allows Waste Management to change the fees it charges based on the results of that analysis.

“If they come back with something crazy, we’ll come back to Council and ask you what you want to do,” said Gretsas.

“Included in the contract is a provision for Waste Management to promote good recycling efforts,” he said. “We didn’t want to send a signal to stop recycling.”

The video presentation emphasized acceptable recycling practices – empty, clean, dry.

“Recyclables means no plastic bags, no Styrofoam, no household garbage, no batteries, no cellophane,” said Gretsas.

He said single stream collection was still possible, where the trash is sorted out later. “Sweden has like six streams, one for paper, one for bottles, etc.,” he said.

“The video said cost increases could be from $2 to $4 per month,” Gretsas concluded. “It becomes a policy question then - do you want to pay for recycling?”

Council members urged a greater public education program about recycling benefits, costs, and acceptable methods.

The new Waste Management contract was approved unanimously as presented.

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