COLUMBUS — Columbus City Council members appear willing to extend the residential recycling program for another year, but first they want to know whether glass can be removed from the list of accepted materials.
The city council decided Monday night to ask Shred Monster, which handles the residential recycling, to eliminate glass from the contract before holding a vote on the one-year extension.
“I just don’t think the glass portion is being used enough to warrant the bill that we’re getting for it,” Councilman Troy Hiemer said.
Removing glass from the program would save the city $6,000 by lowering the total contract amount from $66,000 to $60,000 annually.
According to estimates from the first seven months of the current contract, glass products make up just 6 percent of the roughly 692 tons of recycled materials processed during that time.
Shred Monster owner Brad Stirek, who didn’t attend Monday night’s meeting, said he’ll “have to think about” whether he’s willing to revise the contract to eliminate glass.
The biggest concern, he said, is getting people to stop leaving glass products in the unsupervised drop-off bins at his 4930 Howard Blvd. business should that material no longer be accepted.
“It just takes a long time to get people re-educated,” he said after the city council meeting.
Shred Monster, a large-scale commercial and industrial recycling and document-shredding business, started accepting residential recycling after the city-run recycling facility closed in 2012.
When resale prices dipped, the business requested an annual payment from the city so it didn’t lose money on the service offered at no cost for residents. The current one-year agreement runs through September.
While city officials seem to be willing to extend that contract for another year, they also know an effort needs to be made to promote recycling and increase its use.
“To keep it and do exactly what we’re doing is a joke,” Mayor Jim Bulkley said in reference to the low usage numbers.
Shred Monster is on pace to take in 1,187 tons of residential recycling during the contract year. That’s more than double the 542 tons the business processed during the year prior and well above the approximately 600 tons the city-run recycling facility handled annually.
Still, it’s a relatively small amount compared to the roughly 19,400 tons of garbage, not including yard waste and wood debris, that ends up at the city transfer station and eventually the Northeast Nebraska Solid Waste Coalition Landfill near Clarkson each year.
If the city continues the residential recycling program, Bulkley said there needs to be an increase in tonnage to justify the taxpayer subsidy. He believes the city must undertake a promotional campaign to make that happen.
“I don’t have that answer, but I think we need some of our smarter heads to come up with a couple of ideas and try it,” Bulkley said.
Councilman John Lohr, a strong proponent of recycling who takes his items to Shred Monster two to three times a month, agreed that the local recycling rate is “way low” compared to the national average.
He also believes the program needs to be promoted to increase usage and make it more cost-effective. But, he added, there are benefits that are “difficult to quantify.”
In addition to reducing the amount of garbage hauled to the landfill, Lohr said many out-of-town people drive here to recycle then stick around to shop or eat, which boosts the local economy.
“This is new money coming into town from somewhere else,” he said.
He also argued that recycling can lower the cost of products such as aluminum cans and paper, which benefits all consumers.
Nobody from the public spoke for or against the recycling program during Monday night’s meeting, but city officials said they’ve heard from a few people mainly in support of extending the agreement.
Councilman Prent Roth said he’ll support a one-year contract extension, but will take an “extremely hard” look at whether the city should continue subsidizing the program beyond then if nothing changes.
“I doubt very much that I would vote for it continuing after next year,” he said.
According to Public Works Director Greg McCaffery, the residential recycling program costs the city about $56 per ton, compared to $27 per ton, or $36,000 annually, to take the same amount of material from the transfer station to the landfill.
The cost difference is comparable to the annual deficit the city-run recycling facility operated at between 2005 and 2010, according to McCaffery.
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.