The Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency will continue to accept single-stream recycling from the City of Kingston through the end of February. The extension will give the city more time to acquire and distribute totes needed to return to a dual-stream system. But UCRRA officials warn that the service is contingent on a private haulers ability to provide trucks, something they say is not guaranteed.
UCRRA began accepting commingled recyclables from the city about five years ago, despite the fact that the agency does not have single stream processing capability at its facility on Route 32. Instead, the waste is hauled to a facility in Beacon where it’s processed and later sold. In exchange for the service, Kingston paid UCRRA $20 per ton. UCRRA officials said that changes in the global recycling marketplace, notably China’s recent imposition of near-impossible purity standards for raw recyclables, had made continuation of the single-stream transfer service economically unfeasible. In June, the agency’s board of directors voted to discontinue single-stream service as of December 31 2018.
The decision left City of Kingston officials scrambling for a solution. After deciding that hauling mixed recyclables to Beacon using city resources or a private hauler would be too expensive, Mayor Steve Noble reluctantly opted to discontinue the single-stream program. In November, at Noble’s request, the Common Council voted to approve $400,000 in bonding to cover the purchase of 6,800 new recycling totes. Last month, Noble met with the UCRRA board to ask that the agency continue to accept single-stream waste through June 2019. The extension, he said, was needed to procure and distribute the totes and educate city residents about the return to a dual-stream system.
Noble argued that if UCRRA stopped accepting mixed recyclables before the new totes were handed out, the city would unable to handle the material on its own. Noble said the small city-owned transfer station near the county jail has inadequate floor space to handle the daily flow and the Department of Public Works lacked the staff to load material onto contractor’s trucks for shipment to Beacon.
“We just don’t have the personnel to do it ourselves,” said Noble. “And we can’t turn around and hire on a dime.”
Last month, Noble went to plead the cities case before the UCRRA board. After initially signaling that they would stick to the Dec. 31 deadline, the board voted instead to continue to accept single-stream recycling through Feb. 28. But UCRRA Executive Director Tim Rose said the extension came with one important caveat — the agency could only take in the material on days when the Republic Waste Management had trucks to haul it to Beacon.
“After today, we don’t have a guarantee that they will have trucks every day, so I can’t make any promises,” said Rose, speaking to the Kingston Times on Dec. 31. “We don’t have the staff or the capability to haul it ourselves.”
It’s not cheap
The continued service will also come with a sharp price hike. Rose said starting Jan. 1, the agency would begin charging $115 per ton to transfer-single stream recyclables. Rose said Republic currently charges $60 to $70 per ton to handle the material, but had warned UCRRA to expect “considerable” increases in the new year. Rose said the board had also taken into account their own personnel costs for handling the recyclables in arriving at the figure.
“We’re hoping we’re charging too much,” said Rose. “But we also hope we don’t end up losing too much money by continuing to provide this service.”
Noble, meanwhile, said that the city had already issued bids for new recycling totes. Once the bids are returned on Jan. 15, he said, it would take up to six weeks to pass them out. Noble added that the return to dual stream service would be accompanied by a bilingual mailer to advise residents of the change and other outreach efforts.
“We believe the whole process requires months,” said Noble. “But we’re going to move as quickly as we can to get people back into a dual-stream mindset.”