Recycling a question mark for Danville in 2020

Published 7:05 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Danville’s current trash and recycling contract ends next summer, which means the city will soon be shopping for solid waste services. That shopping may involve a “difficult decision” on recycling, according to Mayor Mike Perros.

“We need to be prepared to see what the market is doing and what the trend is,” Perros said Monday during a Danville City Commission meeting. “It’s going to be interesting to watch Lexington.”

The big city an hour north quit recycling paper recently, in the wake of a crash in the paper recycling market. Other communities that funneled their recycling through Lexington have since stopped accepting paper as well.

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Danville and Boyle County are hold-outs in central Kentucky. The county’s convenience centers, which are free to use for all county residents including Danvillians, still accept paper. In Danville, paper can still be put in curbside recycling containers, City Manager Ron Scott confirmed Tuesday — though what happens to the paper after it’s picked up is not up to the city.

“We’re currently still attempting to recycle everything. What they do with it may be unclear, but we’re still recycling it — at least to the point of pickup,” Scott said. “And if they have no market for it or it’s just going into the landfill, that’s kind of on the company.”

Boyle County Solid Waste Coordinator Angie Muncy spurred a conversation about recycling Monday during the city’s “Hear the Public” agenda item, when she let the commission know about some upgrades to the Boyle County Solid Waste recycling program that are made possible through grant funding. The upgrades include a new sorting line that should help employees get recycling cleaner, so it’s worth more — and a mobile paper grinder on an 18-foot trailer that can travel to local schools and “anyone else who wants the service” and shred their paper for them “right on the spot.”

“We’re not quitting,” Muncy said. “We’re not Lexington; we’re Danville and Boyle County. We are not going to quit recycling. I think if you tell people to start throwing things away, they’re going to keep throwing things away.

“I think recycling is a habit and I think if we give that market time, it will come back. It might not come back as strong as we want it to in the beginning, but I think it’s going to make a comeback. I have faith in it. We can’t stop — not yet, mayor; not yet.”

Perros said the mayor in Lexington has “decided over there that she’s going to look to make a significant difference in their program. We may have to make a difficult decision later on, just depending on where it is. Because it does involve money, it does involve assessing the taxpayers. We just need to weigh that out.”

Muncy said Lexington also has a lot of equipment down right now, which also impacted its decision.

The next contract

Danville’s current trash and recycling contract is up at the end of June 2020, which means the city will soon begin working on plans for a new contract, Scott said Tuesday.

Scott and city staff will begin drafting a request for proposals in July and that RFP could be sent out in the fall. They’ll be working with Muncy — who works for the county but whose salary is shared between Boyle County and Danville — on what should be in the RFP, Scott said.

If all goes smoothly, the city could choose its next garbage and recycling company — either the current one, Republic, or a new one — in March, with around 90 days left on the current contract.

Muncy said Monday night she’s been contacted by residents upset, complaining that their curbside recycling is getting picked up as trash. Some of the callers have been less than pleasant —one woman “told me I didn’t care about recycling because she watched Republic put recycling in their trash truck.”

“They (Republic) may do it, but really it’s theirs. They have your contract, your recycling and there’s nothing I can do about that,” Muncy said. “If the citizens are that concerned where it’s going, they can take it to the convenience center … we’ll take it.”

Scott said Tuesday he thinks a change in staffing at Republic and monthly meetings about service issues have led to improvements in the company’s service recently.

“I think our collection issues have diminished and the company certainly, I think, is making a good faith effort to provide good service, because they want to be in good standing going into potential discussions of a contract renewal,” he said.

As far as whether the city’s next contract would or could provide for recycling, given the current bad market for recyclables, Scott noted Tuesday that Danville is a community “oriented towards environmental issues.”

“We were an early community in terms of recycling efforts and that passion to recycle and to not unnecessarily fill landfills … is still with us,” he said. “But we have to, I think, from an economic point of view, consider if there’s no market, why should we continue to recycle products that have no market value and which cost us … more to do so?

“Those are questions that I think are going to be coming before the community and before the city commission … they’re just open-ended questions at this point.”

Scott, who plans to retire at the end of 2019, said he had previously hoped to deal with the need for a new trash and recycling contract before he left and have everything in place by Dec. 31.

“But if in fact the market on recycling is still evolving or changing or not yet known definitively, it’s going to push that renewal schedule out longer — and probably wisely so, so that we can have the latest opportunities to fine-tune our contract,” he said.

Scott noted when the city last went through this process, it was 2010 and the matter made such big waves in the community that it likely contributed to a change in the makeup of the city commission during that election year.

“People are passionate about it, in terms of, ‘Don’t charge me unnecessarily,’ or, ‘I want to recycle and I’m willing to pay,'” Scott said. “There was opinion on both sides and there probably will be opinion on both sides of the issue this fall as we get into it, as well.”