Analysis: Did the City Cave in to Republic Services over Curbside Recycling?
SAN ANGELO, TX — At first, it appeared the City of San Angelo was going to play hardball with Republic Services over their request to look at revising the curbside recycling program in light of a market crash in the recyclable markets.
Sorting recyclables at Republic’s selected vender Butt’s Recycling had increased from around $15,000 per month to around $55,000 per month to sort through 350 tons of recyclable materials residents in the city placed into those green, 95-gallon recyclable cans picked up every other week.
Mayor Brenda Gunter declared the $0.50 per month penalty the 2014 exclusive contract with Republic was in her crosshairs. The $0.50 per residential garbage customer is charged if San Angelo as a community doesn’t provide 500 tons of recyclable material monthly collectively. The city has never gotten close to 500 tons, especially since moving from weekly to every-other-week pickup of recyclables.
Tuesday, the City Council approved 7-0 to allow City Manager Daniel Valenzuela to negotiate a revision to the 2014 contract to account for Republic’s request for relief on recycling. The City intends to allow Republic to stop accepting mixed paper and all plastics except #1 and #2 (that is, allow discarded soda/water bottles and milk jugs plastics only). Everything else on the recyclable list is still allowed, including:
- Flattened corrugated cardboard.
- Boxboard, cereal and frozen food boxes.
- Steel, tin and aluminum cans.
- Empty aerosol cans.
Nothing was mentioned yesterday about doing away with the $0.50 per month penalty, however.
The truth is no revision to the contract is necessary. The town halls, the teeth gnashing, and the high drama was all for nothing. In the 2014 contract, the City gave Republic sole discretion on what recyclables it can accept or not.
“Selection of materials to be recycled, locations of recycling containers and selection of markets for the sale of such materials shall be at the sole discretion of Provider (Republic),” the contract states.
If there is a silver lining, despite dropping the subject of eliminating the $0.50 “You Don’t Recycle Enough” penalty, at least the City escaped the ordeal without a significant price hike.
In Indianapolis, Ind., the city there had to increase fees to retain Republic’s curbside recycling program. In Penn Hills, Penn. The city is considering a tax hike to pay for Republic’s recycling services.
Then there is the question of contamination of San Angelo’s recycling stream. Some residents use the green trashcan as an additional trash container and do not separate the recyclable materials. The City reported 20-30 percent contamination rates during 2017. Sources say that rate is higher now. Why wouldn’t it be? Republic told us in August that no one wants to buy our recyclables anymore.
The city proposes a simple enforcement mechanism for that from reading between the lines of their most recent press release.
“Customers who use their recycling bins as a second garbage can are subject to have the green containers removed. A second garbage bin is available for an additional monthly cost,” states yesterday’s City press release.
After all is said and done on the curbside recycling deal, the city accomplished three things. First, they learned that citizens want to keep the curbside program in place but don’t want to pay more for it. Second, we may not have gotten rid of the $0.50 recycling penalty, but there will be no price increase either, like other cities are enduring. And finally, the City is going to confiscate green cans from those who use those cans as an additional trash can.
Did the City cave? You decide.
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