WATERLOO — The city’s cost of operating a curbside recycling program could take a major hit next year.
Waterloo City Council members received just one bid Monday from a company willing to process curbside recyclables, which was more than 60 percent higher than the current contractual costs.
“The cost of recycling has gone up over the last year,” said Interim Public Works Director Sandie Greco. “There may be a higher increase.”
Greco said city sanitation officials were preparing to hold a work session in coming weeks to discuss major changes in the global recycling market, which are driving up the cost of processing and reusing items like plastic, cardboard and metals.
The Solid Waste Association of North America and other industry groups have noted the market for recyclables has dwindled as countries like China and Thailand, which were huge markets for North American recyclables, have banned some imports.
China in August implemented a 25 percent tariff on cardboard and some scrap plastics, along with more stringent contamination standards, in response to U.S. tariffs on Chinese products.
That situation and domestic market conditions have caused major cost increases for municipal recycling programs across the country.
Waterloo Sanitation Department trucks currently collect curbside recycling and take it to Cedar Valley Recycling and Transfer.
That contract, approved in November 2017, pays the company $90 per ton to sort and market the cardboard, plastic, paper and aluminum cans in contaminated loads. The price for cleaner loads is $55 per ton, but city officials report almost all loads are contaminated with yard waste and garbage.
Republic Services, which operates the former City Carton site on Dunkerton Road in Cedar Falls, submitted the only bid to process the curbside recyclables. That price was $144.54 per ton.
The city would deliver the material to the Cedar Falls location. Republic would ship it to its Cedar Rapids plant for processing and marketing.
The bid does not include the four recycling drop-off locations in Waterloo, which are handled under a separate contract.
Greco said city officials would be reviewing the Republic Services bid and all of its recycling options.