Winthrop, the World, All On the Same Recycling Ride

You think you’re doing the right thing by recycling your plastic milk jug, your cardboard and cans.

Environmentally, you are still doing the right thing, but for cities and towns, it costs more to dispose of recyclable trash as opposed to regular trash. In Winthrop it all goes to the same place – the incinerator – the hauler Capital Waste decides where the trash and recycling go.

Mike Merolo, one of the owners at Capital Waste, said he knows the recycling markets aren’t great.

When recycling really took off in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, cities and towns made money off recyclables.

Much of the recyclables were shipped to China and other countries for processing, but now the markets are flooded and China has closed their markets entirely.

Town Manager Austin Faison said the town’s trash contract ends in the next fiscal year and he wants to  take a comprehensive look at the solid waste contract, including refuse, recycling, composting.

“We need to holistically look at all these things,” he said. “This is an arduous process. We currently have an ‘all in’ waste removal contract and in that we don’t have any say about our recycling. Recycling is treated the same as trash is unfortunately.”

Faison said he recently saw an article in the New York Times on how expensive recycling is. In the world market China has essentially cut off the United States for recycling because they claim the material is contaminated.

“There are very few places in the world for recyclable materials to be sold,” Faison said. “Communities used to make money in the past they are now paying.”

Faison plans on forming a committee to work on the issue, perhaps even consider uniform barrels.

According to Steve Calla, director of public works, in calendar year 2018, Capital Waste collected 5,617 tons of trash from Winthrop.  They also collected 1,475 tons of single stream recycling. Single stream recycling refers to a system in which all kinds of recyclables such as plastics, paper, metals, glass etc. are put into a single bin by consumers.

Calla added that the Department of Public Works collected an additional 90 tons of trash from the Town’s municipal barrels.

The annual cost to the town for the contract with Capital Waste was $1,189,738 in fiscal year 2018, $1,216,507 in fiscal year 2019, and will be $1,243,879 in fiscal year 2020. 

This contract which was executed in 2013 (FY14) is an all-inclusive contract that expires on June 30, 2020, Calla said.

Faison said the next contract a question that will have to be answered is “is it worth it to recycle these items.” He would even like to see the town have a place for textile recycling.

If the town is really in to looking at recycling the cost of the contract will go up. Some communities pick up recycled materials but they are disposed at the incinerator.

“Are we going to include in the contract that we want these certain items recycled,” Faison said. “Are will willing to recycle because it’s the right thing to do or are we will to let our materials go to an incinerator or landfill?”

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