Council addresses recycling uncertainty

By Sarah Pridgeon

Speaking to Dave Naughton of Western Waste Solutions, the company currently responsible for Sundance’s recycling, Mayor Paul Brooks last week lamented the situation the city has found itself in regarding garbage solutions.

“Let me start this whole discussion with: I hate where we’re at and I don’t know where we’re at,” he said, taking responsibility for the uncertainty surrounding garbage in the city and explaining it has been driven by changing goalposts and uncertain options.

It’s been a lot like an onion, Brooks said. Every time the city has peeled away a layer in its attempts to find a permanent solution, another layer has appeared underneath.

Naughton acknowledged the issue and told the council he understands. However, he said, he decided to attend the meeting as he is responsible for employees and must think of his equipment and revenue.

“I hate to give up on recycling because we’re doing it and we’re producing some stuff,” said the mayor, explaining that the city is hoping to continue providing this service to its citizens.

Naughton presented figures to show that recycling in Sundance is not decreasing; in fact, he said, since 2017, Western Waste Recycling has seen an estimated 15 percent year-on-year increase.

Cardboard in particular is driving this, he said, due to the increase in online shopping, “All the way from patio furniture to couches to beds”. Sundance cardboard recycling is up 16 percent and Gillette is up 17 percent.

Discussion was held over the state of recycling in general and the potential profit that can be made from recyclables. Naughton told the council that prices are down at the moment, largely because Asia is the biggest consumer and the market out there is depressed.

“The current thing is the tariffs,” he said. The mayor agreed that there is fear of President Trump’s tariffs being imposed; Naughton noted that he has already seen a 40 percent increase in equipment costs just on the idea of tariffs and that the largest disposal companies in the U.S. have predicted an outlook until the end of 2019 that is “a straight line”.

“That’s what they’re telling Wall Street right now,” he said.

Brooks commented that, while he feels the reaction is overblown, there is something to be learned from the president’s approach to running government as a business. The City of Sundance must also be run that way, he said; services must pay for themselves and numbers will be crunched to understand what effect a decision regarding garbage will have on more vulnerable members of the community.

The city will be doing some careful analysis over the next couple of weeks, Brooks said, assuring Naughton that he will be among the first to know the council’s decision.

“We’re not prepared to commit to anything tonight,” he said, but the decision will be coming soon.

Public Works Director Mac Erickson later stated that he will be getting more definitive numbers together and looking at tonnages. On the basis that one of the options is to run recycling in the same manner as garbage is now run, with a private company partly taking it over, he was asked how things are going with the garbage and replied that it is working well.

“Everything seems to be pretty seamless,” he commented, sharing his thought that it seems at present as though the best option will turn out to be investment in infrastructure and following the same path for recycling as was followed for garbage.

Erickson shared his initial cost estimates to invest in containers and a compactor for the city at around $65,000, noting that more would be needed to also set up a trailer.

“We sure didn’t budget $70,000 to $80,000 to invest in that, but I think we would get it back,” he said.

Clerk Treasurer Kathy Lenz added that the city currently pays $6000 a month for recycling, so would likely recoup this cost in one year.

“We need to sit down and look at numbers,” concluded the mayor.