Saline City Council approved Waste Management’s request to open its contract with the city and increase the price the city pays for recycling.
Council voted 6-1 to pay an additional $51,030 between Oct. 1 and June 30, 2019 – when the city’s deal with Waste Management ends. The cost represents an increase of $1.90 per household, per month.
Waste Management has seen recycling costs skyrocket since China began turning away American recycled materials. According to Brian Conway, of Waste Management, the company’s original price was based on a $6 per ton processing cost. That cost has risen to $95 per ton, he reported to the city. Conway requested an additional $1.90 house hold, per month from the city. City Council granted Waste Management’s request.
No members of council explained their support for Waste Management’s request. Councillor Christen Mitchell, the lone vote against the motion, questioned what the city received for opening the contract early.
“My question is, we have made a concession for this year, what does the city gain in return for giving up this concession?” Mitchell asked.
She asked if the city, in return, would be in a better position when the next contract is negotiated.
“How does this serve the city. We don’t have some guarantee of some consideration in future? If we’re giving something, what is the give from the other side?” Mitchell asked.
City Manager Todd Campbell said he hoped the gesture would show Waste Management the city is willing to negotiate in good faith.
“That’s going to be part of it moving forward as we sit down to negotiate in good faith. The benefit is for the city to continue to receive the service as we work together as a good neighbor,” Campbell said.
Previously, DPW Director Jeff Fordice had told council that Waste Management has been a good community partner, responsive to city needs and supportive of city events.
Campbell said that most local governments have acquiesced to Waste Management’s request.
A previous work meeting, council learned that more and more recycled goods are being rejected because of contamination. The cost of separating recycled goods is rising. A greasy cardboard pizza box, for example, isn’t acceptable.
Presumably, costs could decrease if residents did a better job sorting recyclables.
“We’re paying for a problem but not addressing it. We’re not making an effort to recycle better,” Councillor Janet Dillon said.
Conway said a Waste Management employee was recently in one of the Saline schools to do a program on recycling. He said that the company had gotten away from recycling education and that he expected renewed efforts on this front. A mailing is planned in the near future, Conway said.
Councillor Linda TerHaar said recycling is an individual responsibility.
“Two people I spoke with are eager and ready to learn how to recycle better. It’s really on us to do a better job of this,” TerHaar said.
Dillon said that if less goods are being recycled, perhaps recycling should only take place once a month instead of every two weeks.
Mayor Brian Marl said he was very much in favor of recycling and being good stewards of our environment. He said he would support a mailing to residents about best recycling practices.