North Little Rock will decide in two weeks whether to renew its recycling contract with Waste Management or consider alternatives for residents who want to recycle, Mayor Joe Smith said Monday during a public session to discuss recycling issues.
North Little Rock has had a curbside recycling contract with Waste Management of Arkansas for seven years, but issues heard Monday included problems with some of the company's obligations not being met; complaints from residents about the service; and many issues with residents failing to properly recycle, resulting in contaminated loads.
Waste Management has proposed raising the fee every household pays from $2.99 monthly to $4.14 monthly in October, even though the city's contract goes through March. The company also proposes no longer collecting glass for recycling. Waste Management also wants the city to pay about $124,000 extra for recyclables that end up in the landfill.
About 40 percent, or 20,738 of the city's households, regularly use the twice-monthly recycling service, and one-third of the recycling loads are contaminated by improper materials and dumped in a landfill instead of being recycled, according to figures provided at the meeting.
"I'm trying to get a feel from you [council members] and our citizens about what to do," Smith said. "We will vote in two weeks to continue the contract and raise the fee to $4.14 a month or not. I'll draw up legislation to be for or against."
Smith said his preference is to find another option.
"I'm not for the city paying another $124,000 and not to go to $4.14 in April" for the household fee, Smith said. "That's my opinion.
"I have no intention of quitting recycling altogether," he said. "What we have now is not working, so we're looking at alternatives. We've got to change it, quit it or fix it."
Smith said he understands that Waste Management is a business trying to make a profit and that the "recycling economy is in the tank" because China no longer accepts recycling materials from the United States.
Options for the city include finding a recycling subscription service that residents can individually register with, but at a higher fee; opening and maintaining supervised recycling drop-off centers; contracting with a different company; or dropping the service completely until the recycling economy improves.
"We can't take it over ourselves because we don't have the trucks or the manpower," Smith said of curbside collection.
The city put a notice about the recycling issues on social media last week, and comments posted by residents were evenly divided, Smith said, among those who want to keep the service and pay more, those who said to scrap the contract and those who want changes in the service provided. The mayor's office received six emails, which were 4-2 to keep the contract. Six residents spoke at Monday's comment session.
"Education is absolutely critical," resident Patrick Stair said during public comments. "People that move in don't get information about it. I've not seen any fliers come out after the initial roll-out to say athis is what's good and what's bad to recycle. We need a real good outreach program."
Resident Bobby Taylor said he recycles but that Waste Management hasn't been responsive when he's called to "ask a question and they won't call you back."
Council member Maurice Taylor said he doesn't understand why the city needs to offer more recycling education because there are recycling websites that list proper and improper materials.
"I don't understand the contamination and the need for more education," Taylor said. "When this started, there was a sticker on the bins and we got a flier" listing acceptable materials to be recycled, he said. "Guess where that flier is in my house? At my home, it's on the refrigerator."
"But the ones doing the contamination, they don't care," council member Debi Ross said.
Metro on 09/11/2018
Print Headline: Options weighed for NLR recycling