04/29/12 — City recycling rules to change

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City recycling rules to change

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 29, 2012 1:50 AM

Changes within the city of Goldsboro recycling program this spring will have impacts on the recycling experience of customers and city employees -- and also on a locally based rehabilitation center.

Recycling crews will begin collecting trays and pods from city residents' recycling containers as early as May 7, leaving behind only the containers.

To customers, it will appear the recyclables are being loaded into refuse trucks, but those trucks will be repurposed and fitted with magnetic signs indicating they are picking up only recyclable materials. Recycling pick-up will also continue to be the same day as refuse pickups with no change to the collection schedule.

The new system doesn't require sorting by consumers or city employees as all recyclable materials are collected together. All recyclable materials -- plastics, paper, glass, aluminum and steel cans and cardboard with the exception of pizza boxes -- will soon be deposited into the same receptacle.

But customers won't be the only ones to notice a difference.

Wayne Opportunity Center will see a shortfall of about 10 percent of its budget due to the changes implemented by the city with its recycling program. In the past, the center has employed workers to sort, bail and transport recyclables, but stands to lose up to two part-time employees when the city begins taking its recyclables to a third-party processing center.

City Manager Scott Stevens said the city will begin taking its recyclables to Kemp Recycling as part of its transition to commingled or single-stream recycling. The move means the city can now accept more recyclable materials, including steel cans.

The Goldsboro City Council has expressed interest in lessening the impact on Wayne Opportunity Center, which could mean investment by the city into a new program at the center to plug the hole in the agency's budget.

John Chance, director of Wayne Opportunity Center, reported to Stevens that the city's recyclables make up about 10 percent of the center's recycling revenue. In 2008, that total was about $200,000, while in 2011 the recycling revenue amounted to about $900,000, meaning the city's chunk of that total ranges from $24,000 to $90,000, depending on market prices.

The city hopes to recoup nearly $100,000 of revenue annually through the move, although that total would be dependent on the buying price per ton. The city currently averages about $9,000 in revenue from recycling, all through recycling of aluminum cans.

But the additional revenue could mean more to the center and that was not lost on Stevens.

"We could financially fix that," he said of the center's shortfall. "We do have a way to make this a zero negative impact on the center."

Stevens said he met with Chance as recently as last week to discuss options, one of which was the purchase of a mobile shredding truck.

Chance said Tuesday that it appeared the city's purchase of a shredding truck would allow the center to plug its budgetary hole and retain those two positions, all while providing businesses in the area with a mobile unit to dispose of confidential documents. The center currently has a shredding service on-site and is able to receive revenue from recycling the shredded paper as well as providing the service to law offices, banks and other businesses.

"Rather than them having to come in and shred it here, we can go to their office or business and shred it there," Chance explained.

But the center will need to expand its efforts if it aims to plug the hole left by the city's recycling changes.

"We're going to have to develop that business to a point that it would take the place of the revenue we're losing from the city," Chance said, adding the new business could be a lucrative industry. "It keeps us in the recycling business, keeps our clients busy and also would provide good revenue for the Wayne Opportunity Center once we got it developed."

That option could also prevent the elimination of jobs.

"It's really taking one mechanism for our clients to work away, but gives them another mechanism to make money. That's the intent -- to try to avoid any layoffs from staff or clients because of recycling changes," he said.

Chance said the move makes sense for the city as well.

Chance said originally many of his board members were for the shredding truck, although, later, they hesittated.

He said Stevens and Public Works Director Neil Bartlett addressed the board, explaining the city's reasoning behind going to commingled recycling, but the alternative wasn't an easy sell.

"They don't seem satisfied with the shred truck that we had talked about," he said.

"The main thing (the board members are) looking at is putting people to work and keeping folks busy, and they're afraid the shred truck isn't going to keep as many people busy as are back there right now with recycling. That's the thing that's really got them up in arms, I guess."

Chance is still confident the city and Wayne Opportunity Center will reach an agreement to retain the center's jobs, but there is a deadline since the city has already informed its customers of the changes and is planning to implement the new system May 7.

"We've still got to come up with some proposals and then get back with the city," he said. "The city told us yesterday that they want to go to commingling May 7, so that means we have to come up with something very quick. "

Chance is hoping the second meeting will provide some proposals that the City Council can approve at its May 7 meeting.

The recycling changes will result in some shuffling within the city's Public Works department as well, as Stevens said he anticipates the move will make five to six positions on the city's recycling staff superfluous.

Stevens has been in conversations Bartlett for months about the change, which came as no surprise to the department head.

"Commingled recycling is becoming more and more popular throughout the country," he said.

And the reasons for that are myriad, Bartlett explained.

"For the customers, it will be much simpler since they can put it all in one container," he said, adding it would most noticeably reduce worry over sorting recyclable plastics that carry different numbers on them. "If it's got a number on it, it goes in the container."

He also said it will likely increase participation from citizens in the city's recycling program, thereby reducing the tipping fees at the county's landfill and saving the city money. It also makes recycling easier on his staff, leading to the reduction in positions.

But those positions won't be eliminated hastily, Stevens and Bartlett said.

Stevens said the positions will be funded for six months in the city's 2012-13 budget so that the city will be able to ensure the new system works before reducing staff.

He also said the positions will be shifted to other departments and divisions through attrition, so employees won't be out of a job.

"We did commit to them that they will have a job," Stevens said of the recycling personnel whose positions will be eliminated.

Still, he anticipates the moves could come as soon as early summer and the city will soon begin holding positions for recycling personnel whose positions are being eliminated.

The change could open up the city to more recycling options in the future, Bartlett said, including implementing mandatory recycling requirements for apartment complexes. Currently the city only requires single-family dwellings to recycle, but the simplified system could make it easier to expand.

Bartlett also said he hopes to develop a system for recycling cooking greases and oils to cut down on the amount dumped into sinks. The hot oils can clog sewage lines when they cool, leading to sewer backups throughout the city so any proactive approach to fixing the problem could ultimately save the city in the future.