Weekly Feature

2018-10-18 / Front Page

Lancaster reviews proposed waste, recycling program

by HOLLY N. LIPKA Editor

The Lancaster Town Board reviewed a new program proposed by Waste Management Inc. at Monday night’s work session that could potentially save the town around $29,000 annually in recycling costs, if market conditions improve.

The town’s existing contracts with Waste Management Inc. for garbage and recycling collection and disposal are set to expire early next year.

Until recently, waste-hauling companies were paying cities for their recyclables; that changed when China, which had previously purchased America’s curbside recyclables for the past 25 years, tightened standards for contamination to 0.5 percent this year.

According to Waste Management Inc.’s estimates, discarded food, liquid-soaked paper and other contaminants accounted for around 20 percent of the material shipped to China.

Prices of scrap plastic and paper tumbled, creating a crisis for municipalities that had relied on these sales to subsidize curbside recycling.

“China grew extremely frustrated with the quality of product that we, as Americans, were sending them and in order to reach 0.5 percent of contamination, there’s much more processing that needs to occur,” said Dawn Timm, environmental coordinator of Niagara County’s Department of Public Works and consultant of the proposed program.

“This recycling crisis is not just in Lancaster or Western New York — it’s nationwide. I never thought I’d see us pay for recycling. It’s a really ugly scenario.”

As an example, the Town of Tonawanda approved a five-year contract extension with Republic Services last month that requires the town to pay roughly $30 per ton to have recycled material processed, which equates to roughly $100,000 to $130,000 per year.

Rather than paying a premium to have the recycled material processed, Timm recommended that the board consider Waste Management Inc.’s risk and reward program.

Through this program, Waste Management Inc. would cut the cost of recycling collection and disposal by $12 per parcel for up to four units. In exchange for the lower rate, the town would reserve a large portion of that savings, $162,000, to cover poor market conditions.

Timm said the town could commit to the five-year contract without assuming any risk, but the town “would be paying the worst-case scenario without any opportunity for improvement.”

“Recycling commodity markets are at an all-time low, but the duration of the town’s contract [would] be structured in a manner that provides an immediate annual savings and the opportunity for greater savings as markets recover,” she said.

This program would also include cart maintenance for roughly 30,000 new 95-gallon garbage and recycling totes.

The Town Board adopted a resolution at Monday night’s meeting requesting bids for the carts and will hopefully award the contract at the next board meeting on Nov. 5, said Supervisor Johanna Coleman.

Current town and village residents in the Refuse District receive weekly solid waste and recycling pickup, with recycling collected from 18-gallon bins. If the board approves the proposed program, solid waste pickup would remain weekly, but recycling collection would change to every other week.

The Town Board is still discussing the possibility of a monthly bulk item collection rather than weekly, with a maximum of three items per month. Tires would not be collected.

The board is also reviewing an option for residents to purchase separate tags for any additional bagged items residents would like collected, at a maximum weight of 40 pounds.

The program is projected to cost around $140,000 more annually than the current program, excluding the costs of the new garbage totes. This amount would not exceed the tax cap if added to this year’s budget.

The Town Board will vote on whether it wants to pursue this program at the next board meeting on Monday, Nov. 5. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at 21 Central Ave. in Lancaster.

To learn more, visit www.lancasterny.gov.

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