Republic Services is asking Arnold city residents to clean up their recycling habits.
The company, which also provides the city’s trash pickup, has handled the city’s curbside recycling pickup since at least 2009 and has seen an increase in contaminated recyclable materials that it cannot process.
“We are being charged a penalty for each haul from Arnold that is contaminated,” said Susan Piazza, a manager of municipal sales at Republic Services. “We are going to have to do something different, if we can’t clean it up.”
Piazza discussed the problem with Arnold City Council members and staff during an Oct. 8 work session.
She said the loads of recyclable materials from Arnold show up at Republic Services’ recycling center in Hazelwood with 20 percent to 30 percent of the material contaminated. She said there needs to be less than 10 percent of contaminated recyclables for the curb-side pickup program to continue.
Republic Services said customers who want to recycle should focus on placing paper, cardboard, metal or aluminum cans and plastic bottles and jugs into curb-side containers. It also said materials put in recycling containers should be empty, clean and dry.
Republic Services also said there’s a big problem with people putting recyclable materials in bags, which cannot be processed through the company’s machinery.
Piazza asked for the city’s help with an education program designed to reduce the amount of contaminated recyclables. She said the education program likely would last between three to six months.
City officials and staff agreed to help spread the message about proper recycling.
City Administrator Bryan Richison said the city will post information about recycling on the city’s Facebook page, it’s website, arnoldmo.org and a newsletter the city publishes nearly every month in the Leader. Also, information about recycling likely will be included in stormwater bills that are mailed in January.
Richison also said the city will post messages on its two electronic signs at City Hall, 2101 Jeffco Blvd., and at the roundabout at Missouri State Road and Astra Way near the entrance to the complex that houses the Arnold Recreation Center, Jefferson County Library’s Arnold Branch and Jefferson College’s Arnold campus.
“I think we can help them quite a bit,” Richison said. “I think it is going to take time and repeated efforts, because not everybody will see it at first. Also, people will likely have to see it multiple times before it’s integrated.”
Piazza said the company may start preparing notes to go in Arnold customers’ trash bills about objects that shouldn’t be included in customers’ recyclables.
Piazza said the educational campaign will first focus on three of the non-recyclable and contaminated materials most frequently found coming from Arnold residents, which are plastic bags, food waste and bulk items, like household goods and construction materials. She also said yard waste has been an issue, but that is expected to lessen as winter approaches.
“We have an auditor always looking at the loads,” Piazza said. “After three months, I think we may see some improvement. After six months, we will have good data, and if we are still seeing 23 to 30 percent in six months, that is when we will likely have to look at plan B.”
Piazza said if the contaminated loads do not decrease, Republic Services may need to raise the price of its recycling services to help offset the fees it has to pay when loads cannot be recycled or when work has to stop because machines have become clogged with plastic bags.
She said Republic Services also may decrease its recycling pickup from every week to every other week, or it may stop recycling curbside pickup and have drop-off locations installed throughout the city.
Piazza said Republic Service has more success in collecting non-contaminated loads from drop-off locations.
“They have to load up their recycling and taking it to a location. It is not convenient at all, but you get pure material because those are typically people who want to recycle,” she said.
If after the education campaign, there is no improvement and other options fail to offset recycling costs, Piazza said Republic Services may have to stop the recycling program in Arnold.
“I’m not looking for perfection, just improvement,” Piazza said.
She said Arnold is not the only city producing large amounts of contaminated loads. Piazza said Republic Services serves 40 cities in the St. Louis area, and currently has a pilot program in Ferguson, where employees are checking customers’ recycling containers and informing them about what is not supposed to be in the containers.
In order to help customers figure out what can and cannot be recycled and how to properly dispose of materials, Republic Services has created the website RecyclingSimplified.com.
Piazza said she was happy Arnold’s elected officials and staff have agreed to help educate residents, and she believes it will help Republic Services.
“We want to continue to offer this service, we just need to make it better than it is today,” she said.