City considers suspending curbside recycling service to help reduce expenses

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Recycling could be on the way out in the capital city, in large part, to help save money.

Public Works Director Robert Miller told the city council recently that he is considering renegotiating the city’s solid waste contract to save money, and that one way to do that would be to cut out the curbside recycling service, at least temporarily.

Jackson pays about $1.1 million a year for recycling. Miller said the cash-strapped city could use those funds to make improvements at the landfill or pay for other services.

“We’re trying to reduce the overall cost of waste-handling,” he said.

The city currently contracts with Waste Management, which provides curbside pickup for approximately 52,000 residents.

“Our most recent estimates show that only … 60 percent of Jackson residents regularly participate in recycling,” he said. “This is below the national average estimate of 75 percent of households.”

Miller said the contract with Waste Management could be renegotiated to completely do away with the service or could be modified to cut costs.

He believes the city can renegotiate because of recent changes in the recycling market.

According to an April 2018 article at CNNMoney.com, China has banned the imports of dozens of “types of recyclable materials, including steel waste, used auto parts and old ships.”

The ban affects countries like the United States, which sells much of its recyclable material to the nation of more than one billion people, the article goes on to state.

Changes in the law also requires that most plastic recyclables imported into the country be 98 to 99 percent pure plastic, Miller said.

Previously, plastics shipped to the country have been about “two-thirds and three-fourths usable,” he said.

With changes in the market, recycling has become much less profitable, giving Jackson a major bargaining chip when it comes to renegotiating its recycling contract.

“With a contract, it cannot be changed unless there is a termination clause or both parties (mutually agree) to make changes to the contract,” he said. “With the market so bad, we believe we can get the cost of recycling down or have it removed altogether.”

 

Miller didn’t know how long renegotiations would take, or if they would be successful. He said the contract with Waste Management ultimately could be cancelled and the city’s solid waste contract could be rebid.

Another local government has also reduced its recycling program.

In 2016, the Madison County Board of Supervisors voted to significantly scale back the county’s recycling program, a move that will save the county about $200,000 a year in solid waste costs.

The reductions included ending curbside pickups and installing three drop-off bins for residents throughout the county. Since then, the program in the county has been reduced further. After receiving complaints that the bins were being used for trash, the number of bins was reduced to one.

The receptacle is located at 141 Lake Cavalier Rd., at the Southwest Madison Fire Station. Fewer people are recycling now because of its remote location.