After taking into account the increasing expense and diminishing financial return on the city’s collection of recyclables, as well as the continual problem of people dropping off unrecyclable items and non-residential use of the facility, the Farmington City Council voted Monday night to shut down the city’s recycling center as of Sept. 1.
The recycling center is located at 212 Industrial Drive, about a mile off of Highway 32.
Mayor Larry Forsythe got right to the point regarding the center’s eminent closure when the council began discussion on the issue as it met in regular session Monday night at Long Hall.
“I’m very sorry that we have to close it,” he said. “People are putting things in there that shouldn’t be put in there. I wish we would have given [city residents] a little bit more chance to speak their opinion on it because they are the ones that do pay our … We work for them. They do not work for us. I wished we would have added another month where we could have at least gotten their input in it, but they did not get their input in it, so I’m sorry about that.
“We tried so much to save this thing. We’ve done everything. [City Administrator Greg Beavers] has even had volunteers out there — free. He’s bought them numerous safety equipment, numerous things. We moved it out to a site that we thought would work. It’s kind of an out of the way site, but that’s all we had at the time. We had it downtown and all they’d done was throw everything that was in the recycling center all over the neighborhood, so that was another problem.
“We thought we’d move it out to the outskirts of town and it’s not patrolled very good. There are no lights or anything, and people were throwing their deer carcasses, a garden hose … Anything that’s not recyclable goes to the recycling center and anything that’s recyclable goes to the [landfill]. It’s doing the opposite of what it’s supposed to do, and we don’t have the resources to build a real recycle center. We don’t have the population to do that — we’re only 20,000.”
Forsythe went on to explain that it is cities like Kirkwood and Town & Country that have both the funds and population to provide their residents with larger recycling centers.
Since its inception, the Farmington Recycling Center has been available for the sole use of city residents. Once the recycling bins are filled, the gates are closed until the materials are collected by Republic Services on Tuesdays and Fridays.
The recycling center accepted recyclable materials like paper items, such as catalogs, phone books, junk mail, cardboard, spiral notebooks, colored and coated paper and giftwrap paper; chipboard boxes, including cereal, cake, food mix, milk and juice cartons, as well as gift boxes; cardboard; paperback books; #1 clear and green plastic resin items, such as soda, water and flavored beverage bottles; #2 clear plastic resin items, including milk and juice containers; #2 colored plastic resin items, including detergent, fabric softener and colored plastic; #3 and #7 plastic resin items, such as ketchup bottles, syrup bottles, narrow neck containers, shampoo bottles and plastic cosmetic containers; #4 and #5 plastic resin containers, including margarine tubs and frozen dessert cups; six- and 12-pack rings; steel and aluminum cans, aluminum trays and foil; and up to five-gallon sized clean plastic buckets.
Items not accepted by the center include glass, plastic bags, Styrofoam, hardbound books, thin plastic film, #6 plastics, twist ties, oil, insecticides, hazardous material containers, electronics and clothing or cloth items.
“The best thing that I can tell you is, if you have a [garbage pick-up service] now on a weekly basis that offers recycling, ask them to join their [recycling program],” Forsythe said. “It’s something like $9 a month or a couple of dollars a month extra. Sept. 1, as far as I know, after passage of this resolution, the recycling center will no longer be in Farmington.”
According to City Administrator Beavers, the city had discussed closing the recycling center last fall.
“We discussed it last September or October when our costs started going up,” he said. “Right now, it is costing us the equivalent of $60,000 a year, providing the pick-up service. We know — we don’t have data on it — but we know that a large percentage of materials that’s put in there is not recyclable and runs the gamut from deer carcasses, garden hoses, swimming pools to appliances.”
Beavers noted that workers were “dumpster diving” to pull out items from the containers that were not recyclable.
“This added to our landfill cost,” he said. “We were paying effectively twice.”
Beavers added that, despite posted signs stating that the recycling center was only for the use of Farmington residents, the city was well-aware that non-residents continue to use it anyway.
“Most people who call me to complain because the center is full and closed, when we start questioning them, we find out they’re not residents,” he said. “That’s why it’s full.”
When recycling services were first provided by the city about 10 years ago, it cost about $14,000 a year.
“Which made sense on a lot of levels,” Beavers said. “Last year our cost was $1,600 a month to have it serviced and dumped. We had a fuel surcharge fee of about $800 a month, if I remember right. I didn’t look that up. Today, the pick-up service is $2,127 a month. There’s a recycling processing charge — which is a new charge added on the bill — and that is $1,680. Then there’s a fuel environmental recovery fee of $1,242.”
Beavers told the council that the recycling industry is going through a difficult time, but that he believed it would recover in time. He offered the possibility that the city might be willing to restart its recycling service if it ever returned to being financially feasible sometime in the future.
After further discussion, the councilmen voted unanimously to close the city recycling center. Following the vote, Forsythe offered his thoughts on the recycling center’s upcoming closure.
“It’s a shame that we have to do this,” he said. “We just have to do it. It really aggravates me that we tried something — and at first it was really a good thing — but every time you turned around the waste place was adding to the money. I’m really hurt that we have to end this, but this is something we have to do for the financial good of the city.”
Forsythe then apologized to the council for his earlier comments about city residents not being given the opportunity to weigh in on the matter.
“The people on this council have been elected by the residents to represent them on matters like this one,” he said. “That’s what they’re supposed to do and that’s what they did here tonight.”