Greeley City Council to hear more recycling center options at Tuesday night work session

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Catherine Sweeney

Greeley City Council to hear more recycling center options at Tuesday night work session

A tough recycling market continues to spite the city of Greeley, but officials are coming a little closer to fixing the problem.

For years, the downtown recycling center offered residents a place to take their recyclables for free. Its closure in January 2014 left many with no place to take them.

The center closed because the contracted hauling company quit, saying it couldn’t generate a profit.

Ever since, city officials have been working on alternatives. They’ll discuss three options during Tuesday’s Greeley City Council work session. No proposals are new, but staff members developed old ones further and will present the more detailed versions to the council.

“…No decisions have been made,” said Community Development Director Brad Mueller. “It’s all in a discussion stage.”

Private waste management companies in town offer curbside recycling, but this isn’t the best option for everyone.

Some residents like the idea of recycling, but they don’t generate so much that paying for the curbside subscription makes sense, said Assistant City Manager Becky Safarik. Some live in apartments where management won’t pay for the service.

“If there’s not a place to do it, it’s frustrating,” she said. “It’s tricky when markets aren’t as strong as they need to be.”

In the past, recycled material was a hot commodity, mostly for Chinese buyers, Mueller said. Demand was high, so the material would sell for a good price. Haulers would make a profit off shipping it.

Then, Chinese demand fell, dragging prices with it. Instead of making money off recyclables, haulers began having to pay to get them shipped.

“It’s looking like that’s not going to get better anytime soon,” Mueller said.

Part of the decrease in demand stems from the popularity of environmentally friendly production.

“Look at your bottled water,” Mueller said. “Many of them are now talking about how they’re using one third the plastic.”

This cuts both the supply and demand of recycled plastic, “which is good from an earth standpoint, but from an economic standpoint, it’s not,” he said.

That economic standpoint is why the city’s been held back on opening a new facility.

“It’s better to recycle than to fill up landfills,” said Mayor Tom Norton. “But the problem is then, ‘How do you pay for it?’ ”

Three options are going before the council Tuesday night. Two of them were discussed at the last work session on the subject.

One proposal suggests a partnership with a private waste company in town, Northern Colorado Disposal. One proposal suggests the city reopen the downtown center as a fee-for-service facility. The last suggests passing an ordinance that requires all curbside haulers to offer recycling services and would implement a “Pay-As-You-Throw” program.

The partnership with NCD would arrange for the company to haul and dispose of services from the reopened downtown recycling center. It would cost about $188,000 for the hauling services, and the city would have to cover other costs, such as facility updates and labor.

NCD is considering closing its own drop-off center, corner of 59th Avenue and O Street, because of similar economic restraints, Mueller said. A city subsidy might keep the services going, the report states.

Reopening the center as a paid service also is on the table. The first year would see about $34,000 in facility updates, according to a report from the community development department. After that, annual operating cost would range from about $210,000 to $260,000.

City planners had two major concerns about this proposal. One, cost recovery projects ranged from 60 percent yearly at best and 2 percent yearly at worst. Also, because they have always received the service for free, some residents might find the fees unreasonable.

The last proposal is less of a business plan and more of a law to be applied to other businesses. It would require all collectors in Greeley to offer recycling services.

It also would require them to pro-rate their collection fees based on the amount of trash residents generate.

For example, there would be two options for trash can sizes: 32 gallon cans and 64 gallon cans. Those who choose 32 gallon cans would pay less, encouraging them to place more of their waste in the recycling bins.

Because this ordinance would affect businesses, before any action is taken, the council would need to contact the companies during a public outreach period.

City planners noted that the “Pay-As-You-Throw” system could be used regardless of the downtown recycling center’s reopening.

A similar system is already in effect in Fort Collins. Unlimited recycling is included with trash service for no additional charge, and trash bills are based on the size of the trash container.

The verdict is still out.

“We’ll just have to go through it in detail to see if they’re any different or any better than that we did before,” Norton said.