Tuesday City Council talked about pulling the plug on the entire recycling program.

Greensboro Field Operations Director Dale Wyrick was going over options for the City Council to consider next year when recycling in Greensboro is going to get a whole lot more expensive.

Wyrick said the Council had two options to consider and Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann said, “What if we just didn’t recycle.  I know it is not desirable but some cities are doing it.”

Wyrick said that was not an option he had considered, and that since the city would have to dispose of the 25,000 tons of recyclables at the landfill at a cost of $45 a ton, it probably wasn’t a good financial move, yet.

Under the current recycling contract Greensboro is paid $15 for every ton of recycling that leaves the Republic Services Materials Recovery Facility (MRF, pronounced murf).  So Greensboro receives about $375,000 in payments from Republic Services each year that helps offset the cost of the recycling program.

It’s a sweet deal for Greensboro because as Wyrick explained to the City Council at its work session on Tuesday in the Plaza Level Conference Room, the price for recyclables has fallen through the floor.  He told the council that currently “mixed glass” which makes up about 25 percent of the city’s 25,000 ton recycling stream is worth a negative $22 a ton.

So for every ton of mixed glass sorted at the MRF Republic has to pay $22 to have it hauled off and $15 a ton to Greensboro because we have such a good contract.  The original contract was with ReCommunity but they were bought out by Republic.

The two options Wyrick wanted the City Council to consider was negotiating a contract extension with Republic or putting the entire operation out for a Request for Proposals.

Wyrick recommended negotiating with Republic and trying to find a way to ease into the new contract where instead of being paid for recycling, Greensboro is going to have to start paying.  The City Council agreed that negotiating a contract extension was the better option.

Wyrick said the city would have to share in the cost of operating the MRF and he estimated the cost to be between $75 and $90 a ton.  At $90 a ton the city would pay $2.25 million a year if the recycling stream is not reduced.

One suggestion for the future that Wyrick said should be considered was for the city to ask people not to put glass in the recycling bins.  He said it would take a while to educate people and the city could provide recycling drop off points for glass, but that when the city is paying for the recycling operation, picking up glass, sorting it and then paying $22 a ton to have hauled off doesn’t make sense.

Wyrick also said part of the negotiations would be for Republic to spend about $4 million upgrading the MRF, so it will be a more efficient operation.

Another focus Wyrick said would be more important going forward will be on reducing the percentage of contaminants or non-recyclable material going to the MRF. Greensboro has a much higher percentage of contaminants than most cities.  Wyrick said that big offenders of the recycling program would most likely have their recycling bins taken away.  He said the city will have to have a different attitude when it is sharing in the cost of operating the MRF.

The city already has 20 recycling drop off points for people who fill up their recycling containers. The locations can be found by going to the city website where you can also download the app GSO Collects which has a ton of information about the recycling including the otherwise completely incomprehensible recycling pickup schedule.