County subsidy of curbside recycling coming to an end?
The handwriting has been on the wall for several years, but now the immediate future of the Western Finger Lakes Solid Waste Management Authority is on thin ice with the Wayne County Board of Supervisors.
The Board agreed to a subsidy of $223,903 in the 2012 proposed County budget. This was down from the 2011 subsidy to the Authority totalling $530,500 and a far cry from the Authority’s 2010 subsidy of $1,143,893.
The County switched from an Authority-run curbside pick up of recycled materials last year, opting to change the law and require trash haulers to pick up the curbside materials. Haulers picking up the curbside recycling could take it to the Authority operated MRF (Material Recycling Facility) located on Route 88 in the Town of Arcadia and tip (dump) it at no cost to the haulers.
At the time, the Board of Supervisors said participation by the haulers would determine the future of subsidies of the Authority. It was no secret the County wanted out of the recycling business.
The deal to have haulers take the curbside materials to the MRF came under fire by trash haulers from the beginning. The haulers either passed on the cost of the curbside recycling to customers, or absorbed it in their costs. The Authority, who used to pick up the separated (dual source) recycling at the curb, required customers to sort the materials.
Once the law changed and the haulers took over the recycling function in the County, the Authority quickly made it clear that they would accept the single source (mixed) materials, but would continue to need a County subsidy to run the program. They also told haulers that they could not take separated materials that could be sold for a profit, to other facilities and simply bring the mixed material that has little, or no value, to the MRF.
Last week the Authority notified haulers serving Wayne County that as of December 1st, there would be a $40 per ton tipping fee for all recyclable materials. Not only would haulers have to pay to dump their curbside recycling materials at the MRF, but lacking their own scales, they would have to first go to the Dolomite Products plant on Tellier Road, weigh their trucks in, then proceed to the MRF, some five miles away, to tip their loads. The trucks would then have to return to Dolomite to be reweighed to determine the amount of materials. In addition, the haulers would be responsible for paying scale charges.
Wayne County Administrator James Marquette said he had no idea why the Authority was charging the new tipping fee in light of the County subsidizing the curbside program.
According to Marjorie Torelli, the Interim Administrator of the Western Finger Lakes Solid Waste Management Authority, the new tipping fees were necessary when the Authority realized they were losing money on every load of recycled materials brought into the MRF. “We talked about this at our last meeting and realized that processing co-mingled recycling costs more than what we received from selling the materials,” said Torelli. She indicated prices received for paper and cardboard have dropped and that, currently only recycled plastics has a good profit margin for the Authority.
The Authority takes in recycled materials, then finds viable markets after minimal processing. According to Torelli, the MRF is now seeking additional sources to provide plastics to the Authority, including out-of-county and out-of-state suppliers. She stated that currently the Authority is receiving loads of recycled plastics as far away as South Carolina. “Plastics is where the money is,” admitted the Interim Director.
Macedon Supervisor/County Board of Supervisor member Bill Hammond questioned why County taxpayers should be subsidizing curbside recycling, while haulers have to pay for tipping, and out-of-county concerns are allowed to bring their materials to the Authority-operated MRF?
Wolcott Town Supervisor/County Board member Kim Park said that the new tipping fees would be especially hard on the eastern part of the County’s haulers, who would now have to pay, after being told that recycled materials would be accepted at no charge at the MRF. “People on this side of the County are having a cow.” Park said the haulers on the eastern part of the County will now have to travel further to find a source for their collected recycled materials. She indicated that this move by the Authority would lead to a reevaluation of County support and perhaps it was time to finally pull the plug on the Authority.
Part of the 2012 budget for the Authority is for administration costs, County recycling education and special recycling days for hazardous materials. Hammond suggested that all funding to the Authority be cut and the County find other vendors for both special hazardous waste disposal and the education program. “There is no reason we could not contract with the Wayne County Cornell Cooperative for (recycling) education.”
One of the largest curbside recycling collectors in the County is Waste Management. Currently they are tipping 5-7 loads at the MRF every day.
According to Waste Management Spokesperson Cindy Jessup, plans are already in motion to add additional trucks to their fleet and find another source for their materials. Jessup said there is no way of determining the actual tonnage of recycled materials her company was bringing to the MRF since the Authority location does not have their own scales.
Ironically, Waste Management is in the process of building their own recycle transfer station at the High Acres Landfill that operates in Perinton/Macedon. The new facility will be ready in June of this coming year. Waste Management recycling trucks from Wayne and other locations would dump their curbside collected materials at the new transfer station where it would be loaded on large trucks and transported to the Waste Management single source material recovery plant in Liverpool, NY.
Currently, several smaller trash haulers, required to collect the curbside materials, are taking their loads to the single source recovery center operated by Casella Recycling in Ontario County. According to Plant Manager Jim Snyder, they currently service several Wayne County haulers and there is no charge for recyclable tipping. Snyder also indicated that paper and cardboard, which make up the majority of recycled goods, has fluctuated in the marketplace. He added that a small tipping fee, if any, will be announced next week.
Al Plumb, at Alpco Recycling on Route 31F in Macedon is offering to take the curbside materials from haulers for a tipping fee of $20 per ton.
The County Planning Department was charged by the Board to keep records of tonnage of curbside recycling and to ensure all County haulers were providing curbside pick up of recycled materials.
Upon learning of the move to charge a tipping fee for curbside recyclables, County Administrator Jim Marquette and Board Chairman Jim Hoffman called a special Joint Committee Meeting of the Economic Development and Planning Committee and the Finance Committee for Monday, December 5, at 1 p.m. regarding the Western Finger Lakes Solid Waste Management Authority and the $223,903 subsidy. The Board is set to have a Budget Hearing on the 2012 proposed budget on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the County Court House. The 2012 budget and will most probably be adopted it at that time.