A rendering of planned renovations to the gateway of Gypsy Hill Park. (Photo11: Submitted)
STAUNTON – The recycling bins at Gypsy Hill Park will be gone by the end of the month, a move that city officials hope will help stabilize the ever increasing costs of its recycling program.
The decision was made Thursday evening at special meeting called specifically to address the future of Staunton’s recycling program. In a packed City Hall conference room, residents observed, diligently took notes and gave up their seats for one another as officials workshopped the best solution for the budget issue.
In August 2018, Sonoco Recycling, the company which offers Staunton recycling services, began billing the city $52,000 annually for the same services it once offered for just $3,100. The price increase happened in the midst of U.S. cities grappling with market fluctuations following China’s 2018 announcement that it no longer wanted to import U.S. recyclables, according to the New York Times.
The global economic decision trickled down to the decision making that took place in the City Hall meeting room.
“There are a lot of burdens on the program,” said Public Works Department director Tom Sliwoski. Each option would cost the city more than its used to, he said.
He began to hand out the estimated budget impacts for three recycling scenarios. Those options included removing the Gypsy Hill Park drop off site and keeping curbside pickup, keeping the recycling program as is and eliminating the program completely.
Meeting attendees, and the city officials present, expressed a strong evasion to the last option. While none of the options excited the officials, they realized that something had to be done.
The consensus of the room was to go ahead and remove the Gypsy Hill Park drop off site.
“I think the impacts to citizens are far less for removing that than doing away with the curbside,” Mayor Carolyn Dull said. She directed Sliwoski that the bins could be done away with as soon as possible with proper notice to residents.
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Council members Brenda Mead and Jim Harrington supported Dull’s position and followed Sliwoski’s recycling program analysis as well.
During the presentation, Sliwoski identified unpredictable burdens that the Gypsy Hill Park bins produce — both physically and financially. Many times, trash placed in the bins contaminate the recyclables which make loads unusable to recycle. The financial implications are up in the air as well.
Before the price increase, Sonoco didn’t charge the city a rental fee for the containers. The August price tag changed that to $75 a month. In the past six months, the company also began charging the city more to transport the recycling bins, Sliwoski said.
By removing that variable in the recycling program, they would avoid future market fluctuation impacts on the city’s payment to Sonoco, Sliwoksi said.
In 2017, the city collected about 1,012 tons of recycling. One-hundred and eighty four tons were collected from the five community containers at Gypsy Hill Park.
Gypsy Hill Park recycling accounted for $28,000 of the new $52,000 annual recycling costs, according to a previous report from The News Leader.
Aside from the financial decisions, Mead advocated for a plan to education residents on how they can reduce their waste.
“If it’s becoming too expensive for us to recycle, and I think that’s true everywhere … then I think we need to educate people more on how to reduce their consumption,” Mead said.
She added that she wants to hear staff suggestions in the future on how they may accomplish education-centered recycling goals.
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