The Fort Wayne City Council supported Mayor Tom Henry’s goal of getting 80 percent of city households to recycle by giving the OK to spend $345,000 to buy more carts.
The council on Tuesday unanimously supported the expense, which will allow the city to buy up to 6,390 more recycling carts – enough to push the city to the lofty recycling rate. The participation rate in mid-March was 73 percent.
Matt Gratz, city director of solid waste, said the contract will allow the city to buy the carts as needed, but he expected the full allotment to be given. He said the city gets 15 to 20 new requests per week to join the recycling program.
“We’ll only buy what we need, but I have a feeling we’ll hit the 80 percent mark,” he said.
The more people recycle, the less the city has to pay to throw trash in the landfill and the more money the city gets by selling recycled materials. That is why the city allows residents to order a second recycling cart for no cost.
Last year, city residents pitched 88,953 tons of waste, about 6,000 tons less than the previous year. This meant a savings of $150,000 in tipping fees paid the landfill. In addition, the city last year began receiving half the profits from all materials recycled by residents. This generated $426,932 in revenue. That money plus the cost savings allowed the city to reduce monthly residential garbage fees from $11.24 to $9.95.
Councilman Marty Bender, R-at-large, questioned whether the city increasing participation could mean further price reductions. Gratz said that will depend largely on the price of the items the city can sell and the quality of the recycled materials.
A recent audit found that 6 percent of the recycled materials were contaminated, or had to be disposed at the landfill. Gratz said this included things such as gallons of paint, yard waste and even microwaves. He said contamination levels of less than 10 percent are considered good, but he encouraged residents to only put items that can be recycled into the containers so the city can maximize revenues. The recycling of plastic bags has also been a problem for the city.
Gratz said the city will soon be hiring an advertising firm to help promote the program. The city receives $100,000 in revenue from garbage and recycling bills each year to spend on promotions.