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Strongsville may switch to automated trash, recyclable pickup within 2 years

March 4, 2019

Strongsville may switch to automated trash, recyclable pickup within 2 years

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio – The city may switch to automatic trash and recyclable pickup – which involves trucks with robotic arms lifting and emptying containers placed on tree lawns – within two years.

That’s what city Service Director Joe Walker told cleveland.com last week. He said Strongsville’s waste hauler, Republic Services, is pressuring the city to go automated. The city’s latest contract with Republic runs through 2020.

“If I had my way, we should do our diligence and bid for a new contract both ways (conventional pickup and automated), to see if automated is a cost savings,” Walker said. “I think automated should be more price competitive.”

Several other Greater Cleveland communities have already converted to automated trash pickup. In 2017, North Royalton switched to automated pickup of recyclables but not garbage.

In Strongsville, the cost of trash pickup has been rising under the city’s existing agreement with Republic, which is headquartered in Phoenix. In 2015, the first year of the contract, the city budgeted $2.2 million for waste disposal and processing of recyclables. The cost was projected to reach $2.6 million by 2020.

In Strongsville, residents don’t pay separately for trash and recyclable collection. Instead, the money comes out of the city’s general fund.

During a City Council budget hearing last fall, city Finance Director Joe Dubovec said the 2019 budget for trash and recyclable collection is $2.5 million.

At the hearing, Mayor Thomas Perciak said Republic officials have visited him and pushed to convert to automated trash pickup.

“It’s going to be forced upon us at some point,” Councilman Matt Schonhut said, according to meeting minutes. “They’re using half the amount of manpower (with automated collection). I’m sure their workers comp claims are significantly less.”

Councilman Jim Carbone said automated collection increases recycling and reduces the amount of trash going to landfills. He said North Olmsted’s recycling rate grew from 28 percent of material collected to about 50 percent after that city switched to automated pickup.

Perciak said that residents can now place bulk items on their lawns every week for pickup. With an automated system, that would change to once a month.

Walker said that could pose a problem if a major storm hits. Residents emptying their houses and garages after a flood might not see their lawn cleared of trash for several weeks. He said that’s what has occurred in cities that have converted to automated collection.

“I don’t know if you remember, there were rats out on the tree lawns,” Walker told council. “I mean it was horrible, because they were relying on front-loaders, and you can’t pick up heavy debris with those trucks. It’s something we have to think about.”

Walker added that the city, in any case, may see an increase in the cost of recyclable processing due to changes in the international market. China is no longer anxious to buy recyclable plastic from western countries.