Council OKs recycling contract revision

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


Depending on the actions of the Washington County Board of Supervisors, the Washington City Council may have to revisit its decision but for now the controvertial issue of revising the city/county recycling contract has been approved.

The council voted 4-2 to approve a resolution amending the contract with WEMIGA Waste Inc., the business that administers the joint city/county recycling center, to reimburse the business for losses due to China no longer accepting U.S. paper or plastic recyclables. Previously China had been one of the largest purchasers of recyclable materials from U.S. sources. The cost, shared between the city and county, would be around $1,500 per month and would be retroactive to May, when Whaley first approached the council. The contract with WEMIGA expires June 30, 2019.

Council members Steve Gault and Brendan DeLong opposed the resolution amending the contract.

?A contract is a contract,? DeLong said.

The resolution had been tabled during the Aug. 7 meeting to allow Lynn Whaley, of WEMIGA, the chance to attend the meeting to answer questions about the request. Whaley approached the council on June 5 regarding changes to the contract, saying that since China stopped taking the recyclable materials, which was previously a revenue stream for WEMIGA, it has actually cost WEMIGA to have the materials removed. WEMIGA still is making a profit from cardboard and metal recyclables.

?It has gotten a little bit worse,? Whaley said. ?They did charge a bit more last month for some of the materials.?

Gault said China had the change planned out previously and most people knew the change was coming. Whaley said he had not heard about a complete shutdown happening.

Whaley said it now costs $75 per ton on paper and $40 per ton on plastics for a disposal fee. He said the cost to put them in the landfill is $45 per ton.

Council member Elaine Moore commented that the city and county had already made a significant investment in equipment to recycle materials and she believes the city should stay the course with the recycling program.

In a memo to the council, Hinson said the supervisors adopted a version of the amendment he believes has shortcomings. He wrote the amendment was overly broad by addressing categories of recycling that are irrelevant to the current issues and that the amendment would be made effective 60 days after signing, which he said is not fair to WEMIGA. A few amendments had been made to the resolution the council voted on and Hinson said the supervisors may deny the city?s resolution, which means the council would have to revisit the resolution.

The city pays $42,000 per year for the recycling center contract. The new resolution could add $10,000 per year.