By Ralph Echtinaw
With the current trash hauling contract with Republic Services expiring next year, St. Louis homeowners may soon be asked if they would prefer to eliminate curbside recycling if the cost is less.
City Manager Kurt Giles and Councilman Tom Reed are on a solid waste committee with Alma interim City Manager Aeric Ripley and Alma City Commissioner Nick Piccolo, as the cities plan to have a joint trash hauling contract for the fourth consecutive time.
In their meetings they have heard from trash haulers who say glass and plastic placed in recycle bins are generally landfilled, as the demand for those materials is insufficient to make recycling profitable.
“It will be less expensive if we don’t have recycling because the value of recyclable material is not paying its own way,” Giles said at Tuesday’s council meeting.
“It’s such a shame,” said Councilman George Kubin. “I know there’s nothing we can do about it. But it’s a shame.” Kubin, who owns a furniture store and goes through “a ton” of cardboard, was told ten years ago that he could save $60 a month if he DIDN’T recycle cardboard.
Reed said that glass and plastic in recycling bins now is landfilled because recycling it is not cost effective.
“Some things that get shipped overseas for next use sometimes get shipped back here, we’re told, to be landfilled,” Giles said. “That’s not beneficial at all to haul it both ways.”
Precedent exists for nixing recyclables, as Ithaca did just that in its last trash hauling contract.
The decision on recyclables will likely depend on the result of a survey of homeowners the city plans to conduct. Residents will be asked if they favor eliminating the pickup of recyclables if there is a cost savings in the waste hauling contract. Tell Giles what you think by emailing him: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Less controversial is the probability that the next contract will call for custom 96-gallon bins called “carts” that can be picked up by machinery attached to a truck instead of by hand by the drivers.
“Collection with bags or cans that are manually dumped out is becoming a thing of the past,” Giles said. “We’re told, and I think we all believe, that a cart system is the best way to go forward.” Breckenridge, St. Louis and Alma are the only municipalities in Gratiot County that don’t use carts. The cost of the carts is $65 each. That would be paid for by St. Louis and Alma, or the trash hauler (if that is part of the contract).
The cart system is also safer for the men who pick up trash, and they can work faster.
Granger and Republic are expected to bid on the contract, and possible Waste Management, Giles said.
Giles said Pine River Township might be included in next contract. One of the vendors has been in contact with township Supervisor Kevin Beeson, Giles said. Beeson did not respond to the Sentinel’s email request for comment.
Councilmen approved purchase of a 2022 Chevy Silverado 2500 (four-wheel drive, double cab) from Berger Chevrolet of Grand Rapids for $34,405 to replace a 2008 Dodge truck used by Electric Department personnel.
Also bidding were Jorgensen Ford of Detroit ($41,858 for a 2022 F150 crew cab four-wheel drive truck) and
LaFontaine Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram of Lansing ($44,296 for a 2022 Ram 2500 Tradesman).
Council approved spending $10,242 with Butcher Excavating to hook up two houses on West Prospect to city water. The houses are on wells at the moment, and the EPA has recommended getting them on city water because their wells are at risk of contamination on account of being near the Velsicol site. The EPA will reimburse the city for the cost of making the connections.
That leaves seven more residential wells that the EPA would like to shut down for the same reason. They are all in the Orchard Hills subdivision and not as easy to connect to city water.
Library board resignation
Theresa Jewell has resigned from the library board after two years of service because she took a part-time job at the library. Kubin suggested that a letter of appreciation be written for Jewell. There was general agreement there, and Giles said a letter will be written for Mayor James Kelly to sign.