REDINGTON SHORES – Events taking place halfway around the world are causing havoc in local recycling efforts. That was the message from Matt Arcarola, district manager of Waste Connections, the town’s trash hauler.
Speaking at the Dec. 12 town commission meeting, Arcarola said that China, which buys nearly all of the recycled materials, has imposed new and much lower limits on the amount of contamination allowed in the recycled items accepted. Normally, 15 to 20 percent of what’s put in recycle bins is contamination that is not recyclable. The new standard from China has cut that down to half of one percent, which Arcarola says is “almost impossible to meet.”
Examples of contamination are food items and Styrofoam. To remove more of the contaminated materials, it is necessary to slow down the production lines and add new technologies to improve the process, which results in higher processing costs, Arcarola said.
Also, the value of the recycled materials has changed, for the worse. Mixed paper and glass have zero value, Arcarola said. The only items of value are cardboard, which is lower than before, plastics and metals.
“Things that have value are only 35 percent of what we pick up at curbside,” he said.
As a result of the changes and worsening conditions, Arcarola said “a lot of recycling contracts are seeing some pretty large rate increases,” and there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the downswing “unless we find a new market for recycled products.” For now, China has just about taken over and controls that situation.”
Arcarola said Waste Connections, his company, has had a loss on recycling since February.
“A ton of (recyclable) garbage used to be worth $80,” he said, and “now it’s worth about $40, and costs about $80 to process. So, we lose about $40 per ton.”
Communities served by Waste Connections will see the impact of the worsening recycling situation when their waste handling contract is up for renewal, Arcarola said.
“Where we used to renew, now we relook at everything,” he said. “If you’re in a contract, you’re in good shape” for now, Arcarola said. Redington Shores’ waste hauling contract is up in September 2019.
Asked by Mayor Mary Beth Henderson if the town should just drop recycling, Arcarola said a lot of effort has been put into encouraging recycling “and to give that up would be a waste of money.”
Also, Arcarola said only about 2 percent of Waste Connections’ revenue comes from recycling.
“It’s a low cost business for us,” he said, so when the town’s waste hauling contract comes up for renewal, the overall increase will be small. By comparison, Arcarola said competitor Waste Management gets almost 10 percent of its income from recycling.
Too many garbage pickups, resident says
C.J. Hoyt, a town resident, said Waste Connections’ decision to increase trash pickups in town from two to three times a week is causing problems.
“This is disrupting things throughout the town,” Hoyt said. “We have a lot of construction going on, and a lot of narrow streets and cul-de-sacs.”
“To have three days a week of garbage trucks going through our peaceful, beautiful town has kind of taken its toll,” Hoyt said. “Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, every other day, they’re out there,” she said.
Barry Taylor, a resident, said he seconded Hoyt’s comments on the garbage trucks.
“It would be nice,” he said, “to have them two times a week instead of three.”
LED sign planned for Town Hall opposed
Former Mayor Bert Adams said an electronic message sign being proposed for the front of Town Hall will be in a location where few residents will see it. He said Town Hall is at the southern end of town. The majority of the time when residents leave town they go north on Gulf Boulevard to the Park Street Bridge and never pass by Town Hall. When they do go south, they would be on the other side of Gulf Boulevard, away from Town Hall where the sign would be.
Adams also mentioned “light pollution” from the sign as a problem.
Adams lives across from Town Hall, but said later that is not the main reason he opposes the sign. He said he was also speaking for his neighbors, though none came to the meeting to support him.
Mayor Henderson said later the LED sign will be a valuable asset to the town. It can be used to tell residents of happenings in the town, and important information like updates on approaching storms, evacuations, etc. The sign would be similar to the electronic sign in front of Indian Shores Town Hall, Henderson said.
Commissioner Michael Robinson said earlier in the meeting that bids received to create the sign ranged from $28,000 to $55,000. He wants to get further clarification from some of the bidders before presenting the numbers to the commission for a decision. The topic will be on the agenda for the next commission meeting.