It’s back to the drawing board for Washington city staff who sought bids for recycling and trash collection to curb the growing costs of the services.
On Monday, Public Works Director John Nilges told the city council there were three bids from solid waste haulers for recycling services.
He explained that only one bidder, Grace Hauling, based in St. Charles County, met the bid criteria. The company would charge between $7-8 per resident each month, depending on how many residents use the recycling service.
The other two bidders — Republic Services and Meridian Waste — indicated they would not offer exclusively recycling services without trash collection, according to Nilges.
The city sought bids for recycling, but with an alternative to also collect trash.
The plan, he added, is to explore expanded recycling services, including the option to recycle cardboard, and cut the deficit the city spends on the service.
The city now offers curbside recycling sorting and pickup weekly.
“Currently, we cannot do curbside pickup of cardboard, and we are continually looking at ways to accept different forms of plastics,” Nilges stated.
He added that $7-8 monthly for recycling would increase the city’s deficit.
Nilges said the next step is to seek bids for trash, recycling and lawn waste.
“We will continue to look at ways to reduce the deficit and rewrite the proposal to include the total package,” he said.
The new proposal would “flip” what was sought in the previous proposal and seek bids with the primary objective of trash collection, but to include recycling.
For now, Nilges has only been tasked with seeking proposals from private companies and reporting back to the council. He has stated there is no intention to discontinue recycling services in Washington by the city.
There also has not been a definitive decision to switch to a private contractor for trash or recycling services.
Nilges compared costs to local municipalities, including Union, which uses Waste Connections.
Union residents pay $15.53 each month for trash, single-stream recycling and yard waste. Included in the fee is the use of 96-gallon trash and recycling bins at each residence, and tipping fees to dump at a landfill.
Nilges said Washington could get a lower rate than Union has because there would be no tipping fee to use the city’s Struckhoff Landfill.
“With us owning and operating our own landfill, it could have an inverse affect and I think (bids) would be very competitive,” he commented.
The city spends about $250,000 annually for trash and recycling collections. In addition, there is about $300,000 in capitol investments scheduled over the next several years. That includes the purchase of new trash trucks, as well as nearly $175,000 over the next three to five years to make necessary upgrades to the recycling center.
Part of the cost of recycling and trash collection is labor because the city street department collects trash and recycling.
If the city contracts with a private company, the recycling center would possibly close, and the contracted company would be responsible for hauling recyclables to a different center.
Nilges noted that there is no deadline to make changes to city services.
In 2017, the city began testing single-stream recycling, meaning instead of city crews sorting recycling curbside to separate the glass from the plastic, the recycling is picked up in bulk and materials don’t need to be separated.
The city entered into an agreement to purchase a truck dedicated to bulk recycling, however, the recycling market took a “nosedive,” according to Nilges.
Last year, St. Louis-based sorting center Resource Management announced it would no longer accept single-stream recycling.
That forced the city to seek out other companies to see if it would sort for third-parties.
Single-stream is less labor intensive, for both city crews and residents, but it also leads to greater risks of contamination.
Fortunately, Nilges explained, the recycling truck the city agreed to buy was on back order, making the contract void. So the truck never was actually purchased.
The steps in the recycling process begin with curbside pickup. Then the items are taken to the city’s recycling center where it is sorted and baled.
City staff then seeks bids for the recyclables and the bales are sent by freight or truck to the highest bidder.
The city has been exploring several ideas for trash and recycling services.
One option could be collecting once every two weeks, instead of weekly. Staff explained that larger canisters could be used in that instance.
The city of New Haven contracts with Republic Services to collect recyclables once per month.
City staff also has discussed “recycling hubs” where large containers are placed in specific areas of Washington and residents haul their own recyclables there.
There still would be risk of contaminations at those substations, Nilges said, adding that statistics indicate if recycling is not curbside, that many people will no longer recycle.
Many other municipalities nationwide are being affected by the recycling market.