Spokane residents will soon get the ability to recycle more at the curb under a 10-year contract approved Monday by the Spokane City Council.
The council voted 6-1 to approve a deal with Waste Management Inc. that will allow the city to overhaul its two-decade-old recycling system.
City officials say the change will save the city’s Solid Waste Department about $1.2 million a year.
Under the contract, the city will pay Waste Management $67.25 for each ton of recyclables it takes from the city. Waste Management will return 75 percent of the money it earns by selling the materials. Under current prices, the city estimates Waste Management would return about $38 a ton.
Currently, recyclables are sorted at the curb by city employees. Under the new system, materials won’t be sorted until trucks are unloaded at a Waste Management sorting facility, which will be built on the West Plains – next door to the city’s Waste-to-Energy Plant.
The change will allow the city to employee four fewer workers. The city also expects employee injuries to decline.
Officials say the biggest savings will result from recycling more. Most cities report significantly increased recycling rates when switching to similar systems. Every ton recycled saves the city from paying $98 to dispose of it in the incinerator or in a landfill.
City Councilman Bob Apple cast the lone vote in opposition to the contract. He said it should have included a clause that would have forced the company to offer the city the terms of any better deals it offers other municipalities in the future.
“Nothing stops this company from providing a better deal to somebody else,” Apple said.
City Council President Joe Shogan, however, praised city staff for negotiating an “excellent” deal for the city that will save significant money.
Waste Management will take over for Spokane Recycling and Evergreen Recycling, which currently takes the city’s recyclables. Waste Management has a significant presence in the Inland Northwest, handling trash and recycling pickups in Spokane Valley, unincorporated Spokane County, Coeur d’Alene and several other towns. Its subsidiary, Wheelabrator, operates the Waste-to-Energy Plant.
Under the new system, residents will be able to recycle mixed paper, including toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes and envelopes, at the curb without an extra fee, as well as additional plastics, such as cottage cheese containers. Mixed paper currently only is picked up for a fee.
Matt Stern, Waste Management’s area director of recycling operations, said the new sorting facility should be operational by Oct. 1, 2012. City customers as well as Waste Management curbside customers in Spokane Valley and Spokane County will switch to the new system when the facility is ready, he said.