COLUMBUS — The city will look for a new provider willing to offer residential recycling in Columbus before a decision is made on the program’s future.
Columbus City Council members decided Monday night to request proposals from businesses interested in providing residential recycling so they can determine whether the best move is to contract with another company, continue the program as a city-run service or end it for good.
Interim Public Works Director Chuck Sliva said a Lincoln company has expressed some interest in taking on the local service, but there are obstacles to clear.
One issue is whether a company would be willing to accept glass and plastics.
“The markets have just fallen out and it’s hard to move the product,” Sliva said of those recyclables.
Shred Monster, which previously contracted with the city to offer residential recycling here, stopped taking certain plastics (Nos. 3-7) after its processor quit accepting the materials. These types of recycled plastics are mainly sent to China, which will soon stop importing the materials.
Shortly after making that move, Shred Monster decided to end its recycling agreement with the city instead of renegotiating the deal at what would have likely been a reduced payment to reflect the change in services.
Shred Monster, which primarily focuses on document shredding and has a few commercial and industrial recycling customers, started offering drop-off residential recycling after the city-run facility closed in 2012. The local business began receiving $5,000 per month from the city in mid-2016 to subsidize the service after resale prices for recyclables dropped and glass was accepted for a year at an additional cost of $500 per month.
Shred Monster’s residential recycling contract ended Thursday, forcing city officials to begin looking for new options.
Sliva presented a few possibilities Monday night while acknowledging that recycling is “a pretty tough market” right now.
The city could contract with Fremont-based Waste Connections at a cost of roughly $6,000 to $8,000 per month to utilize roll-off containers for residential recycling.
Waste Connection does not accept glass, according to Sliva, and the city would need a secured area for the roll-off containers to ensure people don’t leave non-recyclable items at the site. There would also likely be increased staffing costs for the city to maintain this area.
Another option is to contract with Norfolk-based Green Fiber for paper and cardboard recycling and Columbus-based Alter Trading (formerly CMI) for aluminum and tin cans at a monthly cost of approximately $2,700, with that expense reduced by revenue from material sales to Alter Trading.
Plastic and glass would not be accepted under this option and the city would need a collection site.
Sliva said potential collection sites include the old transfer station along South 14th Avenue, as well as locations near central Columbus.
“We’re still looking at some of the options,” he said, adding that a recycling site would need good traffic flow.
The final option is for the city to ends its involvement in recycling and let residents utilize what’s currently available — Green Fiber containers for paper and cardboard set up at many local schools, churches and other locations, metal recycling at Alter Trading, aluminum can drop-off at the American Legion, St. Anthony Catholic Church and First United Methodist Church and a curbside recycling service offered by Waste Connections for a monthly fee.
Councilwoman Beth Augustine-Schulte is leaning toward that proposal to end the city’s financial obligation.
Augustine-Schulte said she supports recycling, but is hesitant to sink money into the service when it’s offered through other local sources.
“We can landfill this for so much cheaper,” she said.
The most recent recycling contract with Shred Monster cost the city $60,000 per year, but that same material could be trucked to the landfill at an expense of roughly $20,000 annually, according to Sliva.
However, shifting recycled materials back into the trash flow would increase the costs local garbage haulers pay at the transfer station, which could lead to rate increases for customers.
If the city chooses to support a recycling program, Mayor Jim Bulkley said it will take more participation from the public to keep it going.
“We just need to get more people doing it,” he said.
Shred Monster was the only provider that responded to requests for proposals for residential recycling in both 2012 and 2016.