Recycling options discussion

Wed, 06/26/2019 - 10:45

July 9, 2019 Council Meeting Discussion

In a unanimous vote, Council chose Option 1 of the two proposed solutions to the City’s current recycling dilemma, which calls for the continued curbside collection of commingled recyclables with an additional cost to residents in the form of a $3 fee added to utility bills. Council decided, however, not to pass on the additional cost of the recycling program to City residents. The approximately $125,000 needed to cover the cost of the program this fiscal year will be paid for out of the City’s fund balance reserve, or savings account. Council will revisit the issue during the FY2021 Budget Process.

June 25, 2019 Council Meeting Discussion

Council discussed the recycling program survey results and next steps. In January, the City’s current recycling processor stopped accepting glass and some plastics due to major changes in the global recycling markets. This month, the City learned that the vendor will stop accepting all plastics and aluminum on July 15, 2019 and anticipate that they will stop accepting cardboard and paper by the end of 2019. Staff researched short-term options for the City’s recycling program to be able to continue offering this service to residents and presented two options to Council at the June 11, 2019 meeting. Option 1 included collecting and hauling co-mingled plastics, aluminum, paper and cardboard, no glass, to a recycling facility located in Manassas. This is the only facility in the area that will accept the City’s recycling materials. The cost for this option is estimated to be $220,000 per year with an additional $25,000 per year for fuel and truck maintenance. A fee for residents to help offset costs is expected with this option. Option 2 cancels the recycling program.

The City surveyed residents to determine which option they preferred, and option 1 received 775 votes and option 2 received 329 votes. Since the June 11, 2019 meeting, staff has continued researching solutions and presented a revised option 1 at the June 25, 2019 Council meeting. A new vendor who pays $15 per ton for paper and cardboard was found in Maryland. Therefore, staff recommended taking the paper materials to that vendor for the revenue and the plastic and cans to the Manassas facility. Staff recommended a $3 per month fee be charged to residents to pay for the increased cost of transporting materials to the vendors. If Council chooses to implement the fee, an ordinance will need to be adopted to change City Code.

Council discussed the need to find revenue sources or funds in the budget to help pay for the increased cost instead of implementing the fee and also encouraging residents and businesses to reduce and reuse before recycling or tossing. Councilor Willingham proposed that the City set the example and find ways to reduce and reuse more in daily operations.

Council forwarded the resolution selecting revised option 1 to the July 9, 2019 Council meeting for official vote. In the meantime, staff will continue researching options and solutions and will bring back a draft ordinance for Council to consider should they wish to implement the recycling fee.

Background

January 2, 2019 News Release:

Due to rapidly evolving changes in the national recycling markets, the City of Winchester’s local recycling vendor is no longer accepting glass and some plastics. The City is currently researching and considering all other options to continue providing this important service and will be conducting a refuse and recycling study in the coming months (included in the FY19 budget). Unfortunately, until a different solution is found, the city’s glass and plastics #3-7 will not be recycled (see chart below for an explanation of the different kinds of plastics).

In order to minimize impacts to residents and businesses, curbside recycling collection will continue operating as normal. Winchester residents and businesses can continue to place all recyclable materials in their recycle bin. However, any glass and plastics #3-7 that is collected curbside by Public Works will be sorted and transported to the landfill by the City’s current recycling vendor. For more information about the City’s recycling service, visit www.winchesterva.gov/public-works/refuse.

To reduce waste, the City’s Recycling Coordinator, Michael Neese, encourages residents to purchase products in plastics #1 or #2 or aluminum: “Remember to buy products with the end goal in mind.”

“We are hopeful that the refuse and recycling service study, in addition to evaluating and recommending operational improvements for overall efficiency, will produce options to allow the City to continue offering this service for our residents,” stated City Manager Eden Freeman. “We want to be good stewards for the environment and being able to recycle a wide variety of materials is one way to do that.” 

June 13, 2019 News Release:

Public Services Director Perry Eisenach informed Council of some upcoming changes to the City’s recycling program. In January 2019, the City was notified that its current recycling processor, Southern Scrap, Inc., would no longer be accepting glass and some plastics due to major changes in the global recycling markets. Since then, the City has been notified that the recycling processor will stop accepting all plastics and aluminum as of July 15. The processor also anticipates that they will stop accepting cardboard and paper by the end of 2019. Each year, the City collects approximately 2,100 tons of recycling materials from residential and commercial properties for a cost of approximately $25,000, after receiving all available and applicable recycling rebates.

Since January, City staff has researched short-term options for the City’s recycling program. The two feasible short-term options are as follows.

Option #1

The City will collect the community’s co-mingled plastics, aluminum, paper and cardboard curbside and haul them to a recycling facility located in Manassas. This is the only facility in the area that will accept the City's recycling materials, excluding glass. The cost for this option would be $105/ton for the materials hauled, or approximately $220,000 per year plus an additional $25,000/year for additional fuel and vehicle maintenance. The current budget for recycling processing is $50,000, a fraction of the $245,000 needed for this option. A supplemental appropriation of $200,000 will be needed for the FY20 budget which begins July 1, 2019. If this option is chosen, a revenue source will be needed to help cover the increased cost. An additional fee may be charged to residents for the recycling collection service, similar to the current trash collection fee added to utility bills.

Option #2

In Option #2, the City will collect the materials curbside and dispose of them at the Frederick County landfill. The cost for this option would be $20/ton, or approximately $42,000 per year. The City’s current budget allocation will cover this cost and residents and businesses will not be charged additional fees.

Long-Term Considerations

Mr. Eisenach presented some longer-term considerations as well. These included increasing the number of allowable containers of trash that will be collected curbside if the recycling program is discontinued; continuing to collect glass either at a drop off location or curbside and transporting the glass to a recycling facility in Fairfax; and considering a regional recycling facility with neighboring localities in the future. Mr. Eisenach suggested asking Winchester city residents which option they prefer before Council makes a decision. An online survey and open town hall meeting was discussed as options. Council also discussed revenue sources such as collecting cans and aluminum and selling it to local scrap metal vendors to help offset costs.

Take the Survey

Council decided to survey the residents before a final decision is made. A survey has been posted online on the City’s Open Town Hall portal. The survey has been posted on social media and can be found on the City’s website at www.winchesterva.gov/recyclingsurvey.