Oregon City Council to vote on ending recycling service for residents

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Oregon City Council on Monday will vote on a five-year contract with Republic Services of Toledo for refuse and yard waste collection and disposal. It does not include recycling.
        Bids were advertised and opened on Aug. 20. Republic Services of Toledo submitted the lowest and best bid for the contract.
        Currently, the city has a refuse and recycling contract with Waste Management, the only other company to provide a bid.
        If council on Monday approves the contract with Republic Services of Toledo, it would become effective on Dec. 1.
        “We are doing much less recycling than we believe,” Public Service Director Paul Roman stated in a memo to Mayor Mike Seferian and City Administrator Mike Beazley regarding his recommendation to drop recycling services.
        Much of the items placed in recycling bins are being rejected at the recycling center or are being shipped overseas and put in landfills, according to Roman. The global market has not changed or improved, and the cost to process the recycling continues to rise. China continues to limit its recycling import product to a 0.5 percent contamination limit. This limit massively affects the global market for recycling and increases the processing costs.
Clear difference
        In comparing bid options with recycling versus no recycling, there was a clear difference in costs to include recycling, according to Roman. In the Republic Services bid, recycling would cost $190,440 per year if it included limited refuse pickup. With unlimited refuse pickup, it would cost $264,132 per year. In Waste Management’s bid, the cost to include recycling would cost $579,600 per year. Waste Management submitted a bid only for the limited refuse collection option.
        Both bids had the following exceptions regarding recycling: both companies would have the right of refusal to accept recycling and/or take the material to a landfill; no glass would be accepted in the recycle, and the recycle rate would be subject to change with the market rate. The increase in recycling cost was based on a variable rate that will likely increase over the next few years, according to Roman. As a result, Roman recommended suspending recycling in the city for the next five years. By the time of the next contract, the city would include options for recycling to see if the market changed for the better, according to Roman.
        If council on Monday chooses to suspend recycling, the city would have to decide on whether to have limited versus unlimited refuse collection, according to Roman.
        Under limited refuse collection, each resident or dwelling would be limited to putting all of their waste (including yard waste), into one 96-gallon cart. Residents would be allowed to rent a second cart at their own expense ($6.50 per month). Under unlimited refuse collection, each resident or dwelling would continue to put out unlimited refuse in any approved container or bags similar to the city’s current contract.
Cost differences
        In comparing Republic’s unlimited versus limited bid options, the cost difference was $0.47 per dwelling per month, which is a difference of $38,916 per year, according to Roman. However, with the limited bid options, the city would likely need to provide a spring or fall clean up collection that would include the rental of Dumpsters and provide a collection site. In addition, the city would likely need to provide options for yard waste disposal or collection.
        Currently, the city’s Dumpster services cost with Waste Management is approximately $44,000 per year. Even though Republic’s overall bid was lower, their Dumpster costs are 50 percent higher than Waste Management’s cost for the larger Dumpsters.
        “Our concern is that a spring or fall collection would be very expensive under the limited refuse collection option, let alone additional costs to provide additional yard waste collection options,” said Roman.
        In regard to the budget, the city paid $1,022,630.05 to Waste Management for all refuse and recycling collection in 2018. The 2019 costs will be 2.5 percent higher except for December, according to Roman.
        Roman recommended that council approve the five-year contract with Republic Services for unlimited refuse collection only and for Dumpster services. The total cost for 2020 is estimated at $1,097,676 ($1,007,676 for unlimited pickup and $60,000 for Dumpster services). The contract will have every-other-week bulk pickup and a five day collection schedule. Republic Services will provide residents with the new collection schedule and rules for the refuse and bulk pickup.
        Councilwoman Sandy Bihn was disappointed that curb side recycling would end under the proposed contract.
        “I’m still concerned that there’s something out there that we still haven’t looked at,” Bihn said at a committee of the while meeting on Sept. 16  “In the next week, I hope to ask some questions and see if this is just a lost cause because of the economics.”
        Oregon was the first city in the area to provide curb side recycling services to its residents. Bihn played a pivotal role to get it in the city.
        “I feel as a community we came together and we were leaders. Now we’re leaders in getting rid of something that many of us practice on a weekly basis that’s become part of our lifestyle,” she said.
        Councilman Steve Hornyak asked whether the city could reestablish recycling services if the market improves within a couple of years.
        “What opportunity would we have with that?” he asked.
        “We would always have the opportunity to add to the agreement to start a recycling program at any time,” said Seferian. “If it became a viable option, we would always have that ability.”
        Bihn said the city should look into whether residents would want to pay for recycling. She said it would cost about $3.19 per month. “So that’s $38.28 per resident per year,” she said.
        The city currently has 6,900 refuse collection/recycling customers, according to Roman.
        “I don’t know if there is the possibility that some of us would want to pay for this service,” said Bihn. “It could be an option that we have. I’m concerned that, in the future, if the market improves, I don’t see the city providing an extra service and be in the black. So there’s going to be a cost, and there will be competition in our budget for other things. I don’t feel we’re committed to this as I wish we were.”
        Scott Cabauatan, Republic’s municipal services manager for the Toledo area and southern Michigan, told Bihn it was unlikely that rates would go down in the future. He also said a subscription recycling service was not feasible.
        “It’s going to be a much higher number,” he said. “We expect to drive down a street and charge for every single home. We would still be driving down all those same streets, but just have 5 percent, 10 percent, 90 percent pickup. We just don’t know what that price is. I still have a fixed cost to drive that truck. There’s some incremental time savings, but there is still a flat amount of time to just burn diesel fuel up and down the streets,” he said.
        Bihn asked him if he would still look into costs for residents who want to pay for recycling.
        “Typically in the past, when I looked into that, there is usually a threshold set of a certain number of households that would want to subscribe. I can take a look at it. I’m happy to talk to Roman and give a ballpark figure,” said Cabauatan. He said he would try to get that information before council votes on the matter on Monday.


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