City moves to automated recycling

Residents will be receiving one of these bins as part of the new automated recycling program, which will begin May 1, under the recently approved Rumpke contract. The cost of the bins is included in the contract.

NORTH ROYALTON – Recycling will make the switch to automation after a 4-2 vote by city council.

New 65-gallon recycling bins will arrive in April with the program kicking off Monday, May 1 through Rumpke Waste and Recycling.

Rubbish service remains manual pick-up just as it is now with unlimited trash disposal. However, the city is banking on recycling participation increasing substantially, reducing trash tonnage and the associated disposal fee.

Community meetings will be held to inform residents of the ins and outs of the program, what can and can’t be recycled, etc.

Council President Larry Antoskiewicz calls the new semi-automated contract the best of both worlds.

“Trash will stay like it is, they can put out as much as they want and they’re getting a recycling bin to make it easier to reduce their trash. With the automated recycling program, we can keep more trash out of the landfill to help us save money,” he said.

Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw called it the right move.

“I think this is the best way to go,” he said. “I think it’s possible for us to recycle more. If there is education, I think it’s possible for us to, at minimum, break even.”

Despite all the media attention, Ward 1 Councilman John Nickell said he’s only received one call and one email, and the feedback was positive.

“If residents were worried about this, they would have been calling,” he said.

Both Jessica Fenos, planner for the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District, and Sarah Mathews, Rumpke’s municipal sales representative, attended the finance committee meeting Jan. 17 where the topic was discussed before the vote.

Mathews said seniors especially will love the new bin.

“Pushing the cart is much easier on them than carrying bins or bags of recyclables,” she said.

But not everyone is on board.

One resident said his elderly mother lives in Parma and has two bins.

“For her these bins are a logistical nightmare,” he said. “She’s not thrilled.”

Ward 2 Councilman Gary Petrusky and Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris, who have expressed opposition to automation primarily because of the inconvenience for elderly and disabled, both turned down the measure.

Petrusky said recycling data may be skewed. One of his coworkers lives in Parma and has five children. To avoid buying a second garbage can, the family, he said, is “forced” to recycle.

“They never recycled and now they are forced to recycle. So yes, recycling went up,” he said.

Fenos said no one is forced to recycle, residents are simply encouraged to and given the opportunity.

“That particular person feels they are forced, but there are other options for that person,” she said. “And they still have bulk days.”

“And charging the rare resident that does have a larger household, it’s fair to charge them more if they are using more, for the good of the community,” Mathews added.

Mayor Bob Stefanik said, after the meeting, Petrusky is forming his opinion based on one instance.

“He is basing his assumption on one household he knows of in Parma and not the county data compiled by the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District,” Stefanik said. “You might think global warming and recycling is pie in the sky bologna, but, at the end of the day, it comes down to dollars and cents. The more our taxpayers recycle, the less we will pay in disposal fees, plain and simple.”

The new five-year contract was approved at a cumulative cost of $7.7 million, but this price assumes recycling numbers remain flat. If residents increase recycling by 15 percent, the contract will cost $7.3 million, the same price it would have cost to remain manual for both rubbish and recycling; and if recycling increases by 30 percent, the cost will be just under $7 million.

Fenos has indicated recycling participation easily increases by 40-45 percent with automation.

Residents must begin to take ownership of recycling so the city can avoid having to charge for rubbish pick up, Stefanik said.

“If residents begin recycling, that money can be put into roads and infrastructure that is so dearly needed. Other communities pay for rubbish. That’s something we don’t want to do, but we need the cooperation of residents to start to recycle more and keep that money out of the landfill.”

Petrusky said he believes recycling education has fallen through the cracks.

“But if we go to a toter system, recycling will dramatically double? I’m having a hard time buying into that,” he said.

Kasaris, who’s received 20 emails with only one favoring automation, believes too the city didn’t push recycling enough in recent times, and so has experienced a drop in participation. He couldn’t lend his support.

“We need to look in the mirror,” he said. “In order for this to make sense, we have to recycle $400,000 worth of product. That’s a lot of milk crates and pop bottles. We were pursuing recycling more in 2007 to 2012 and once Rumpke took over, we pushed it less. We have become lazy with it. But at the end of the day, Aunt Edna doesn’t want to wheel a 65-gallon container up a 200-foot driveway, and 30 percent recycling is a tall order.”

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