FAIRHOPE – City officials approved a two-year contract to process Fairhope recyclables, but said they are still looking for other ways to dispose of materials such as paper, aluminum, glass and plastic.
The Fairhope City Council voted Monday, Oct. 25 to approve a new contract with the Emerald Coast Utility Authority of Cantonment, Florida. The contract runs through Sept. 30, 2023.
Under the contract, the city will ship recyclables to the ECUA site and pay $15 a ton to have the material processed. The contract allows the city to ship up to 1,200 tons a year to ECUA.
Council President Jack Burrell said Fairhope officials are still looking for less expensive options.
“If we can find somebody to buy our cardboard and mixed paper,” Burrell said. “We have a buyer that will pay us to do that. We’re paying $15 a ton and we’re going all the way to Cantonment.”
While the contract is for two years, the city can cancel the agreement during that time, Councilman Jimmy Conyers said.
“If you signed a two-year agreement with them and then, 120 days from now, we figured out that we can recycle our cans this way, bottles to Atlanta, the mixed paper, we’ve got a buyer for that and then we’ve just got to store the plastic for a while, we could do that with five days’ notice to them,” Conyers said.
Burrell said a facility in Atlanta will take glass sent by Fairhope at no charge. The city would have to pay the cost of shipping the material to Georgia.
“Say we can ship by the railroad carload, glass,” Burrell said. “It’s not going to a landfill. It costs maybe $800 a load, which I think is a very, very small cost to keep it out of a landfill. We can dispose of that to someone that will use that glass.”
Burrell said the city could also find markets for cardboard and paper.
Richard Johnson, public works director, said one of the most profitable recyclable materials is aluminum cans. Cans, however, make up only about 1.6 % of the recyclables collected by Fairhope. Many residents separate cans and sell the aluminum at local collection centers, keeping the items out of the city collection system, Johnson said.
Johnson said about 15 % of the material sent to ECUA is not suitable for processing, such as wet cardboard, shredded paper and grocery bags.
“There’s just not a market for that,” Johnson said.
Another 10.5 percent of the items received by ECUA are not recyclable materials, such as plastic foam.
Burrell said ECUA sells the recyclables for which there is a market. He said that if Fairhope removed the material that could be sold and only sent other items, ECUA could cancel the contract.
“We can’t cherry pick our recyclables and then expect to only pay them $15,” Burrell said. “That’s based on a standard ton.”
He said, however, that if Fairhope can find a market for all recyclables, the city can stop using ECUA.
“I think for us to be effective with this, we need to find a plastics buyer,” Burrell said. “If we did that, we could probably get our costs down.”