Lowell Recycling Costs to Skyrocket Next Year
LOWELL -- The city has enjoyed years of not paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for single-stream recycling.
That honeymoon is coming to an end.
The upcoming recycling contract with Waste Management will result in a massive increase for the city, especially because the level of contaminants is quite high across the city.
In this final year of the recycling contract, Waste Management is charging the city $82,500. That baseline number is expected to approach $400,000 in 2019 for the collection and disposal of 6,500 tons of recyclables.
In addition to this figure, the city is projected to pay $292,000 based on a 30-percent contamination index -- for the estimated 30 percent of contaminants in recyclables.
The estimated total is $668,675 in 2019.
Officials are focusing on education and enforcement efforts to bring that figure down in the future. The city wants to reduce contamination by 5 percent each year until 2023, when it would be down to 10 percent contamination and the total recycling cost would be estimated at $420,000.
The 30 percent contaminant number is “alarming,” said City Councilor Dave Conway.
“It’s a major problem,” said Conway, who added that most people don’t know what can be recycled.
He admitted he used to place plastic bags in the recycling, and then added, “I blame that on my wife,” drawing some chuckles from the chamber.
For education and enforcement efforts, the city has enforcement coordinators.
They’re inspecting the contents of curbside recycling carts throughout the city, and issuing stickers and door hangers for improper solid waste and recycling practices.
The city has issued more than 5,000 warnings this year.
Since Aug. 27, there has been a more concentrated effort. The enforcement staff has issued $25 fines for the improper disposal of recyclables. They have issued 215 citations.
They’re placing educational stickers on recycling carts that have been cited, said Gunther Wellenstein, solid waste/recycling coordinator.
Residents should not place plastic bags in the recycling cart. They should not place food or liquid, extension cords, hoses, chains, ropes, electronics, lumber, chairs, propane tanks, metal and more.
People can recycle cans, glass, paper and cardboard, plastic containers and more.
“We’re moving forward in a cleaner way,” City Councilor Karen Cirillo said of the inspection efforts.
City Councilor Rodney Elliott said this contamination issue has been a problem for years.
“We’ve made great strides, but we still have a ways to go,” Elliott said.
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.