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Little Rock says yes to changes that raise recycling rates, stop glass collection

by Rachel Herzog | October 2, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.
Recycling cans are lined up next to regular trash cans on Maisons Drive in Little Rock in this file photo.

The Little Rock Board of Directors on Monday unanimously approved new curbside recycling terms that raise customer prices and stop glass collection.

Under the new contract terms, the city's nearly 60,000 solid-waste customers will pay $4.14 per month, up from $2.99 per month, to Waste Management for curbside recycling services. The new fee will go into effect April 1 and last until March 31, 2020, when it will then rise for another year up to $4.29 per month.

There was little discussion among the board before the vote. The cost increase is happening across the United States, with the supply of recyclables to companies that re-purpose them becoming so great that prices for those recyclables has collapsed. China, which was previously a major buyer taking as much as 40 percent of recycled material, now takes almost none.

Waste Management officials said this year they would be unable to renew the contract in its current form. The existing seven-year contract began in April 2012.

At a recent agenda meeting, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola told the city Board of Directors that the increased burden to consumers was relatively small compared with what it could be if the city switched to a recycling contract that would not include garbage pickup. Those generally run from $5 to $7 monthly, he said.

At-large City Director Dean Kumpuris added that the result of not continuing to have a curbside recycling contract would likely mean residents shouldering the costs of building more landfills.

The new terms also include Waste Management paying the Regional Recycling and Waste Reduction District $150,000 to educate residents about what can and cannot be recycled in hopes of lessening the amount of contaminated materials placed in bins. The payments would be $5,000 monthly for 30 months.

Contaminated materials include broken glass, plastic bags and other prohibited items. If a bin's lid is left open in the rain, the items it contains are considered contaminated.

On Monday and over the last month, some board members raised concerns about residents not knowing what they can and cannot recycle, and thus not having their bins picked up.

"I do think in certain areas of our city we need to do a better job of educating," Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore said.

China requires the recycled materials it does take to have a contamination rate of less than 1 percent. Little Rock has a contamination rate of about 32 percent, roughly the same as North Little Rock's rate.

North Little Rock and Sherwood are under the same contract with Waste Management as Little Rock. The North Little Rock City Council approved the contract last week, with an amendment requiring the actual contract to come back before the body for approval after the finalization of contract terms by all parties. The Sherwood City Council will vote on whether to approve the terms Oct. 11.


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Print Headline: LR says yes to changes that raise recycling rates, stop glass collection

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