Recycling is one of many services that is funded through taxes and it must be evaluated against all other priorities including education, public safety, trash collection, stormwater management, road maintenance, etc. As part of the budget process, we try to identify ways to improve performance and reduce costs in all of our programs. Our last recycling contract expired during a period in which the market for recyclables had considerably weakened. When we bid out a new contract in late 2019, only one vendor responded. The terms of that contract required the City to pay the highest rate in the region for curbside recycling service, a rate which has increased by 73% since 2018.
While the cost of our recycling program is nearly twice as expensive per ton as is our weekly trash collection, we elected to continue providing that service because it was valued by our community. However, as we evaluated programs and services for potential cost savings, we noted that nearly half of the materials collected through our curbside recycling program were either burned or disposed of in the landfill. This is not what our residents expect when they recycle, particularly given the high cost of the program. Ultimately, it was determined that our recycling contract was extremely costly for our taxpayers (including those that do not get curbside recycling service), that the performance of the program did not achieve desired outcomes, and that the money spent on this service would be better utilized ensuring that we have adequate staffing to maintain our weekly trash collection service, resume bulk trash collection as soon a possible, and ensure that we can adequately staff our public safety operations.