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Rincon City Council talks trash
Future of recycling a concern
Garbage truck
The council, facing a March 31 deadline, has opened a bidding process designed to get the best trash collection service for residents at the lowest possible price. - photo by File photo

RINCON — During a special called meeting of the Rincon City Council on Feb. 3, City Manager John Klimm attempted to clean up some areas of confusion about trash collection.

Klimm spoke at length about a solid waste collection RFP (request for proposal). The council, facing a March 31 deadline, has opened a bidding process designed to get the best trash collection service for residents at the lowest possible price.

Klimm sought clarification from council members on a couple points.

“One is that there has been some discussion on the part of some members of the council that we might want to entertain the possibility of expanding the service from residential to commercial,” Klimm said. “As we begin to draft that, it becomes very, very clear to me and our city attorney, as well as other people that we have discussed this with, is that it is complex. So the question that I have for you is, ‘Is our business community even aware of this and what is there reaction going to be?”

“Ultimately, the goal, I guess, of including commercial (trash collection) is if we aggregate that we could get a better deal for our business community but we have independent businesses out there that have independent relationships with their service provider that they might like.”

Klimm indicated that a “period of adjustment” is in order for businesses in case the City of Rincon issues a contract for commercial waste pickup.

He said, “So the question is, in this very rapid time frame that we have to get this RFP out and get it done, ‘Do we really want to do this at this time? That’s my first question.”

Then the city manager asked about recycling, even raising the possibility of eliminating it as a city service.

“It was the consensus that we wanted to allow interested parties to bid on both the basic trash pickup and have an option for recycling,” he said. “Unlike the commercial option, which would kind of commit the community to go in that direction, we still have flexibility on the recycling.”

Recycling is becoming unprofitable for waste disposal companies and the number of places that will accept recyclables is rapidly dwindling. The increased cost will be passed to city customers.

“It remains to be seen how communities across the country are going to address this issue,” Klimm said.

Klimm expressed concern about the reaction some city residents will have if recycling is eliminated.

“... in a perfect world, we would spend months and months and months educating the business community and our citizens why we are doing this, what the options are and, in the second instance with the recycling, allowing an opportunity for public input,” he said. “There are some in our community who say, ‘I understand we will have to pay more for recycling but it’s a good thing for the community and it’s a good thing for the country. I’ve had people who told me they were originally against this whole recycling thing — they thought it was just crazy — but now that they’ve done if for years, every two weeks when they put their barrel out, they kind of feel good about it.”

Mayor Ken Lee said he was “conflicted” about recycling.

“This is not a Rincon issue. It’s a worldwide issue,” he said. “It’s sad because we have done a lot of education into it and gotten people to buy into it, and participate in it. It makes us feel good but now, everywhere we go, we hear it’s not worth it.

“It’s not really our problem to fix — it’s greater than us — but we are part of it.”

The council is seeking a three-year waste disposal contract with an extension option for five years.

The mayor said, “I hate to do away with recycling but maybe one way we could approach it would be that (the recycling) portion of (the RFP) be for just one year instead of the three-year like we do with the regular waste pickup. That may give us some options, some time, to consider more reasonably what a good  plan may be in regard to recycling.”

Sales manager David Kelly of Waste Pro said his company’s new deal with Port Wentworth will likely include an option to cease recycling pickups if the cost of disposing the items reaches $200 per ton.

“Right now, it costs three times as much to dispose of (recyclables) as it does standard trash,” he said. “That’s where we’re at and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to get any better. We may be at four times here in the next year.”

Waste Pro limits its recycling collections to cardboard and paper.

The council instructed Klimm to limit the RFP to residential trash collection with recycling. It also voiced support for conducting a town hall meeting to get public input about the possibility of starting commercial waste disposal.

 Kevin Exley recused himself from the discussion  because he works in the solid waste business.