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story.lead_photo.caption 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.


Little Rock notebook

Metro on 10/02/2018

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


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Archived Comments

  • abb
    October 2, 2018 at 9:52 a.m.

    Recycling is fraud perpetrated on the taxpayer/homeowner.

  • Jfish
    October 2, 2018 at 9:57 a.m.

    Actually, it is an effort by forward thinking people to sustain the planet for future generations

  • tackboard
    October 2, 2018 at 9:58 a.m.

    Another sad day for recycling in Arkansas. Just because Waste Management also does our garbage pick up is the reason we stayed with them. Why didn't we join the two contracts together as one and have the same ending date for both. Makes it more competitive for others to look at the contract.
    Instead of just accepting the norm, having rates raised and receiving less for the services given, has anyone really researched the matter? Why can't we develop means to utilize our own waste better and find alternatives for its reuse. At least NLR has the option to stop the contract and come up with additional ideas before final commitment.

  • RBear
    October 2, 2018 at 10:24 a.m.

    Yep. abb misses the real issues and is a short-term thinker, leaving so much for future generations to deal with. San Antonio and Austin both have robust recycling programs and are actually returning money to the system with the sale of recylables. I do agree with the exclusion of glass. It costs more money to recycle than it returns, much more money. The problem with glass is that it's essentially melted sand which is dirt cheap.
    When I was head of Fiesta Verde, the sustainable arm of Fiesta San Antonio, we went as far as to find a supplier of t-shirts that were made from 50% recycled plastic. The amazing thing about those shirts is that they were comfortable and EXTREMELY durable. People actually loved buying them.

  • abb
    October 2, 2018 at 10:37 a.m.

    Emotion. No fact. You liberals are just parroting what you see on DU or DailyKook. Just go out to waste management and talk to Mr. Lee Washington, he'll take you over to the recycling center. Have fun. 80-90% of what you put in your recycle goes over to the dump. Recycling is a little bit of fraud, a lot of waste: both of your money and time. Just go read the RIGHT WING NYT article on it this summer: h t t p s://w w w.nytimes.c o m/2018/05/29/climate/recycling-landfills-plastic-papers.html

    Forward thinking....LOL!

  • RBear
    October 2, 2018 at 11:22 a.m.

    abb have you REALLY gone out to the recyling center? I'd love to tour it myself. I worked closely with David McCary of San Antonio's SWM division and toured the facility where they process single stream recycling. The article you cite discusses changes to the recycled material standard. That's always a concern and can be addressed by education. Little Rock doesn't do a good job of education and needs to improve. That should be a priority of the next mayor. But only extreme right wingers like you view it as a scam and actually are usually the worst in terms of screwing up the load.
    I've got first-hand experience with dealing with the issue, starting the recycling program for Fiesta San Antonio. When we started, the festival was diverting 0% waste from landfills. When I left the position to move to Little Rock, it was diverting around 27% (around 50 tons) from the landfill with more programs in place to add to it. I've helped sort recyclables at the end of the parades, both of which produced 110 tons of trash. It's not an easy task, but through education we increased diversion rates.
    Then again, I doubt you do anything yourself to help.

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    October 2, 2018 at 12:58 p.m.

    Remember the 8o/9o's?
    "Recycling is cheaper! Recycling saves money! Recycling lowers the cost of goods!"

    Turns out they were lying about everything but its still your fault even if you do recycle. You are still a loser.

  • Jfish
    October 2, 2018 at 2:26 p.m.

    ABB, I might be mistaken, but I thought that an article a few days ago said that 30-40% of the WM recyclables were being contaminated and trashed, so that would mean that still over half is being diverted from the landfill. IMO, in a country with over 300 million people with no end to the population grown in sight, we can either do a better job of recycling or end up looking like China and India in a few years. As Rbear alluded to, the City needs to take on more of the responsibility and hopefully the new mayor will make that one of his initiaves, along with reducing litter. The new bins with lids are much better than the old brown tubs, but people have to use a little common sense. WM is somewhat at the mercy of the market and apparently the market has changed quite a bit recently since China is no longer taking our garbage.

  • NoUserName
    October 2, 2018 at 9:44 p.m.

    I don't really see the point in paying WM to just take cardboard (and half of it at that) so they can just turn and sell it for profit. 3/4 of the things that ARE recycle-able we are't (can't?) recycling anyway (glass apparently, plastic bags...). Broken glass is contamination? Ok. As I recall, WM is sending glass elsewhere.
    So I don't see how we're really helping future generations dumping 90% of recyclables to the landfill because WM can't make money. Can I opt out of paying the monthly fee? This just isn't worth it for me. Bring back the recycling centers and dump WM. As for contamination, has the city had an independent study? Does the city reimburse WM for contaminated recycling? Seems to me it'd be an easy way for WM to avoid losing money selling recyclables at a loss by calling it contaminated.
    As an aside, I've had my recycling pickup missed far more frequently of late as prices for recycling have sunk.