By Christina Georgiou
Easton City Council unanimously approved two new trash disposal contracts Wednesday evening, and it's expected the third and final contract will be approved later this month. The three contracts will replace the one current city garbage contract which is set to expire at the end of the year.
Breaking residential trash hauling service down into basic components--collection and transportation, recycling, and landfill disposal--offered the chance to cut a better deal, and the Easton will save about $1.2 million as a result, Public Works Director David Hopkins said.
Each contract will run for four years, with options for the city to renew annually at the locked-in rate for an additional three years.
Solid waste will go to Chrin Landfill at a rate of $40.44 per ton, and Waste Management will accept, process, and market the city's collected recyclable materials, offering an 80 percent rebate to the city after processing costs of $100 per ton.
Much of the savings will come from the city gaining revenue from recycled materials, Hopkins said.
"The will actually pay us for single-stream recycling for the first time," he said.
In the single-stream system, consumers throw all recyclables together in one receptacle, and the items are sorted out at the recycling plant later.
Raritan Valley Disposal, the city's current trash hauler, was found to be the lowest bidder this past Friday when bids were unsealed for the trash hauling and transportation segment, and Hopkins said council will be presented with an agreement with the company for approval at its next meeting later this month.
No change in the current residential service or scheduling is anticipated, he added.
Recycling, however, will likely be picked up weekly instead of bi-weekly, beginning in January 2014, Hopkins said.
The more frequent recycling pick-ups will cost Easton about $90,000 more annually, Hopkins estimated, but the city will likely make up the cost difference in savings on landfill fees and recycling rebates, as well as from grant money the city will earn by recovering more recyclable materials.
Hopkins suggested the city might further benefit by instituting its own recycling rewards program for residents in the near future to replace the RecycleBank system, which awards redeemable points that can be redeemed for goods and services, it currently uses.
"One of the things I'd like to propose is rewarding those who help our cause," Hopkins said, opining that recycling more and generating less non-recoverable trash is "the way of the future."
Hopkins suggested that the city might offer a discount or rebate on residents' trash bills for consistently recycling.
Mayor Sal Panto said the idea is a good one because he's found the rewards RecycleBank offers aren't very useful and the number of points it takes to redeem rewards are hard to achieve, though he's recycling more than ever.
"Single-stream has me...putting out three containers of recycling and one container of trash," he said.
While Hopkins agreed more residents are recycling more in recent years, the city could still do better to keep items out of the landfill, he said.
"We're still under optimum levels," he said.
But offering a real incentive, such as a rebate on residents' city trash bills, could help raise recycling rates, Hopkins said.
"I think we can come up with an achievable goal," he said.
The city's current seven-year trash deal, which had included steeply escalating costs in the last few years of the contract, is set to expire at the end of the year. City officials have said Easton has "eaten" the difference in price as contract costs rose, so it seems unlikely the $1.2 million savings will be passed on to residents directly by lowering trash bills, though officials did indicate that they don't expect them to increase under the new deals either.