Sean Sims (left) and Todd Beals of Priority Waste Services explain the decline of recycling at the Dunlap City Commission special called meeting Thursday evening.
May 31, 2019 – The city of Dunlap voted Thursday night to add a $5.25 monthly fee to city customers who use the recycle option for garbage pick-up. The decision came at a special called meeting May 30 on the future of the recycling program and updating the beer ordinance.
Representatives from Priority Waste, which recently won the city's garbage pick-up contract, were at the meeting. They pointed out that they had already ordered the garbage cans for the Dunlap contract, but that the bid they submitted was based on the city having both regular garbage pick-up and recycling. The recycling program, they pointed out, reduced the amount of household waste going in the regular garbage cans, and so they could give a lower rate for the garbage pick-up, even if they did not get the recycling contract.
“It feels like we're just chasing our tail here,” Commissioner Jeff Harmon said after an hour-long discussion among commissioners, Priority Waste reps, and others at the meeting. Priority had the garbage bid, but the city had postponed making a decision on recycling because recycling is becoming a losing proposition. If the city drops recycling, Harmon pointed out, that changes the profit prospects for Priority and the contract would probably have to be re-bid. But as the city attorney pointed out, Priority had already invested some money in the contract, and so the job could not be re-bid.
Several factors have entered into the decline of recycling in many cities:
- Many customers mix garbage in with recyclables, or fail to wash and clean the recyclables before putting them in the green bin. If even one such unacceptable item ends up in the truck-load headed to the recycling facility, the whole load can be rejected as contaminated.
- Some items like glass that are potentially recyclable tend to be hazardous to handle due to breakage.
- Orange Grove Recycling in Chattanooga, which employed handicapped individuals to sort recyclables had to close down the single-stream recycling program in 2016 when newly implemented federal regulations began requiring that handicapped people be integrated into the community.
- China and Malaysia, which have been a destination point for much of America's recyclable trash, have begun rejecting garbage from the U.S. and other western countries.
"If it's mixed, it's worth zero," Priority Waste Services owner Sean Sims said. "A year ago, we were getting $110 for cardboard. Now it's $40 a ton."
"Red Bank and Cleveland did city-wide recycling, and they've all stopped recycling," Priority's sales manager Todd Beals told the commission.
Priority's bid for the recycling was for 250-500 recycle customers, and Dunlap currently has around 400.
In the end, commissioners decided to pass the fee for the recycle pick-up on to the customers, giving them until the end of June to decide if recycling is worth $5.25 a month. If the number of recycle customers drops below 250, the city will subsidize the difference, figuring that it will still be cheaper than re-bidding the garbage contract and having to accept a higher rate.
Anyone currently recycling who does not want to pay for it should call City Hall, at 949-2115, to have their green barrel picked up. The pick-ups on June 10 and June 24 will be the last under the current contract, and unwanted barrels will be collected on June 24.
The Dunlap City Commission voted unanimously to accept Priority Waste's bid of $5.25 per recycle, with a minimum of 250 customers, and pass that cost on to the customer.
The Dunlap City Commission ponders recycling options. L-r are: Mayor Dwain Land, Comm. Allen Jones, Comm. Jeff Harmon.
Commissioners also discussed changing the city beer ordinance.
The catalyst for the discussion was a request for an outdoor beer permit for the Cycle Sequatchie event planned for October in Dunlap.
“The current ordinance does not allow for special event beer permits,” City Recorder Norman Hatfield explained.
Portions of the current beer ordinance were written in the 1920's, only to be invalidated by later amendments. Parts of the ordinance are unenforceable, city police officers stated at the meeting, including the requirement that anyone who can be seen from a road or other public place with an open container can be arrested. That would mean a couple grilling in their back yard with a beer in hand could be arrested if they were visible from the road.
Hatfield suggested that MTAS (Municipal Technical Advisory Service) could provide some sample ordinances.
“We don't need laws on the books if they're not enforceable,” Comm. Jeff Harmon stated.
Comm. Bryan Harmon expressed reservations about changing the city's beer ordinance.
“I don't have a problem changing this up,” he said, “but I do have a problem changing the law for this specific event.”
Comm. Allen Jones suggested limitations could be placed on an event, like requiring beer consumption only in a designated area.
“I'm hesitant to legislate morality,” Jones said.
“I hate to see events here in town turn into alcoholic events,” Comm. Bryan Harmon said. “We have a lot of family-oriented events.”
The commission voted to authorize Mayor Dwain Land to appoint up to seven people to a committee to draw up and present to the board a new beer ordinance. Commissioners Judy Layne, Jeff Harmon, and Allen Jones, and Mayor Land, all voted yes. Comm. Bryan Harmon voted no.
All members of the Dunlap City Commission were present at this special called meeting. The commission normally meets the third Thursday of every month in City Hall. Meetings are open to the public.