With the recycling world in a frenzy, Republic Services representatives asked the Jefferson City Council during a special session Monday to work with them to find ways to create a sustainable recycling industry.
The national average gap for Republic Services curbside recycling services is about $5.50 per home per month, Steve Carr, director of municipal sales, told the council. This is because the cost to pick up recycling from residents and process and decontaminate the recyclable goods has increased while the revenue for the commodities has decreased.
Along with that, China stopped accepting many recyclable materials from the United States due to the items being too contaminated. China has a 99.5 percent purity standard for most exporters, Carr said, which is "almost impossible" to reach.
Republic Services representatives suggested several options to improve their economic position, such as a $1 per residence fee increase — which would generate approximately $146,000 extra, said Lillian Kinard, Republic Services manager of municipal services.
They also suggested amending items in the city's 10-year solid waste management contract with Republic Services to help relieve some burdens from Republic Services.
The solid waste agreement began June 1, 2016, and runs through May 31, 2026. The agreement states either party can request a renegotiation of the contract terms.
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One of the suggested contract amendments was to decrease the road repair fee Republic Services pays the city for use of city roads. Republic Services paid $318,270 for road repairs this year, according to the solid waste management contract.
"The reason we're even here to talk about this, we want to continue to recycle," Carr said. "We want to continue those programs in our communities and people have a desire to recycle and pay for those services, but we need to put a durable model on this side to continue to perform these services."
Andrew Wempe, Jefferson City Republic Services general manager, said he would also want to add language to the solid waste management contract that "shares upside potential with the city should the markets come back."
Education is also key in addressing the changing recycling world and lowering the decontamination rate, Republic Services representatives and council members said. Republic Services has been running a promotion — "Empty. Clean. Dry." — to encourage residents to empty recyclable items, and wash and dry them before placing them in recycling bins.
Republic Services has also been working with the Jefferson City Public Schools to provide updated recycling education, Kinard said.
Republic Services also placed stickers on recycling bins to educate residents on what should go in recycling. Mayor Carrie Tergin and Ward 4 Councilman Carlos Graham suggested placing new stickers on the bins or placing them in a different location so more residents would see them.
While there is a clause in the solid waste management agreement for Jefferson City and Republic Services to suspend the contract, "we don't want to explore the option of breaching or canceling," Wempe said.
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"We've always had a good partnership with the city, and we want to continue that," he added.
Republic Services ended residential curbside recycling for several Cole County towns, including St. Martins and Wardsville, earlier this month. Jefferson City did not lose its single-stream recycling at that time.
"Right now, unfortunately with the market where it is, we're not able to provide those services to them," Kinard said.
Several council members said they wanted more information from Republic Services — such as renegotiated agreements Republic Services has had with other communities — before making a decision on how to move forward.
Jefferson City also contracts with Ripple Glass to provide free glass recycling services to residents.