Isolation, tourism make Moab big trash producers, low recyclers
City seeking bids for waste and recycling collection contract
by Nathaniel Smith
The Times-Independent
Sep 27, 2018 | 803 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The City of Moab in the near future is set to publish a request for proposals for the collection of trash and recycling. At the regular meeting on Sept. 25, the city council discussed some of the details of the new waste services contract.

Currently, Monument Waste handles trash services while Green Solutions does recycling pickups. The new contract will combine those services. It is difficult to run a profitable recycling business, officials say, so the council hopes that revenues from waste services will help offset the costs of also doing recycling.

Rosemarie Russo, the city’s sustainability director, gave a presentation to the council about the contract. She noted that Moab’s diversion rate, or the amount of waste diverted from the landfill for recycling, is only 13 percent, far below the national average of 35 percent. That number reflects the high cost and inconvenience of recycling in a rural area. “It’s really hard to recycle in an isolated place,” Russo said. She added that many businesses and residents have told her the cost of recycling is prohibitive.

Moab’s low recycling rate is especially troubling given the large volume of trash the city produces. Grand County produces 7.1 pounds of trash per capita every day, whereas the national average is 4.5 pounds per capita. The high volume of trash is likely due to the tourism industry, since visitors are not counted in the per-capita rate.

The contract does not specify whether bidding companies need to do single-stream or source-separated recycling. Single-stream is more convenient and less expensive to collect, but it leads to larger sorting and contamination costs later down the line. On the other hand, the source-separated method asks people to sort their own recyclables, which leads to less contamination and higher revenue from the materials.

During the citizens to be heard portion of the meeting, Sara Melnicoff, founder of Moab Solutions, urged the city council to give preference to source-separated recycling. “Single-stream is going the way of the dinosaur,” she said. “Our center can model itself after other very successful centers that source separate and get top dollar selling to domestic buyers.”

Russo said that two companies have expressed interest in bidding for the contract. One company uses a single-stream model while the other uses source separation. The current contract extends until April 2019, so there will a lengthy transition period after a bid is accepted. Notably, the request for proposal does not obligate the city to accept any of the bids.

Costs for curbside pickup will depend on if the service is mandatory or subscription-based. The city requires residents to pay for waste collection, but Grand County does not. According to Russo, criteria for awarding the contract will include sustainability practices, costs for the city and prices for residents. The deadline for bids is Nov. 1.

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