Cutback expected for magazines, books, mixed paper and certain plastics
Assistant City Engineer Garret Bonn spoke to Fredericksburg’s City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 3, and had to inform them about the city’s recycling center no longer accepting certain materials.
The reason? It’s just not profitable anymore.
“Federal International, who we are contracted with, used to send us a check to haul papers and plastics, but now they have to charge us because the items aren’t profitable,” Bonn said. “We looked at other companies and most of them had the same policy.”
The materials that will no longer be accepted are magazines and books, mixed paper and plastic.
“The primary reason these recyclables aren’t as profitable is because foreign countries who used to accept these items, such as China, are now accepting far less material,” Bonn said.
Bonn explained the Recycling Center will continue to accept these items until Oct. 1. From then until Nov. 30, they will take the items in, but they won’t be recycled.
“We’re going to do our best to get the word out to customers, but we don’t want to turn away those who don’t know, so until Nov. 30, we will take it from them, but it will have to go into the landfill,” Bonn said.
Come Dec. 1, only aluminum, cardboard and scrap metal will be accepted.
Bonn said during this period, staff will monitor the number of unique users, frequency of recycling and how much material tonnage it takes in.
The reason this route was chosen, Bonn said, was because the city wants to keep the center as similar as possible so that if paper and plastic becomes profitable again, they can switch back.
“The market is unpredictable and we don’t want to do anything drastic right now,” Bonn said.
One option was to do away with the Recycling Center altogether, but that wasn’t chosen because they still think recycling is a good idea.
Another option was converting the Recycling Center operation to self-drop-off, but Bonn said that could result in contaminated items because the customers may not know how to correctly sort them or need assistance in unloading their items.
Future considerations at this time include commodity prices for recyclables, improvements to the materials recovery facility technology, recycling industry changes, including waste to energy and improved trade and a long-term plan to the recycling center and landfill.
“We probably have about 1,500 households that recycle right now,” Bonn said. “We want to see if these new regulations will decrease that number, or if they will cause these household members to come to the Recycling Center less often. As we continue to monitor the operation, the hope is that we can continue to make changes to try to reduce the deficit.”
With how the city recycles today, Bonn said about eight days of lifespan per year are saved with the landfill. Once these new regulations go into play, Bonn projects they will only save about four or five days.
“It won’t harm it as badly as some may think because these materials aren’t what take up most of the landfill space,” Bonn said.
According to city documents, Recycling Center material only takes up 2.1% of landfill space.
Other business discussed
• The City Council also heard a presentation from Marc Bennett of Fredericksburg Morning Rotary Club and Andrea Schmidt, director of Parks and Recreation, regarding new playground equipment at Old Fair Park.
In October of 2017, the Morning Rotary Club received approval from the council to build a basketball pavilion at Old Fair Park. After Bennett had seen the condition of the old playground equipment, he wanted to help fund the replacement.
The new equipment could include a Barn with Silo-themed play center, inclusive swings, an interactive play area and an inclusive merry-go-round, which could hold a wheelchair.
Another item could include an activity zone called Memo, which would allow kids to play a simulated sporting game like soccer with himself or herself, someone at the park, or even someone in a different state.
Depending on what is chosen, the estimate varies from about $250,000, which would cover replacing the current unit and adding swings, to more than $600,000, which would cover additional interactive components.
• The council also approved the Convention and Visitor Bureau proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget of $3,080,429.