Glendale city staff recommended the continuation of the recycling program during a landfill 10-year master plan presentation on May 14.
The program began in 2000. The Material Recovery Facility (MRF) has blossomed into an operation that takes in approximately 65 to 90 tons of recyclable materials from Glendale residents daily.
Water bottles, milk containers, detergent containers and PVC pipes are among the plastics that can be recycled. Curbside recycling now can only accept two types of containers.
“Currently, we take all seven types of plastics in our program, but staff is recommending we discontinue taking plastics expect for water bottles and milk containers,” Field Operations Director Michelle Woytenko said.
“We believe we should keep it small and those are something we can do at our MRF.”
The program has had an occasional bump in the road.
The most frequent is contamination within the recycled items, which is typically food waste. Curbside recycling has a 20% to 25% contamination rate, which is the inclusion of items that cannot be recycled that are placed into the recycling bins.
“When that happens, staff separates the nonrecycling items so we can get the items we can process,” she said. “In order to sell our items to countries such as China, contamination rate can only be around 5% so we cannot sell our items because of our rate of contamination.
“I would say one of our greatest challenges is to get people to recycle the right items and put the right things in the bin and keep the wrong things out. It’s a great program, but we need to educate citizens so they know what can and cannot go in the recycling containers.”
The MRF programs loses money, but is offset by the landfill’s revenue. Woytenko said staff believes the program should continue.
Glendale’s MRF program is projected to lose an average of $1.2 million per year through fiscal year 2024.
While the landfill budget begins with a $6,294,375 fund balance, the operating revenue is projected at $13,890,427 with expenses projected at $17,400,590 for 2019-20.
Projections would reduce the landfill ending fund balance to $2,784,212 after being forced to dip into the beginning balance to cover costs over the year.
“This is not a local program, this goes to companies that need to make changes,” Woytenko said. “Recycling in the United States and most nations in the world it is not about money. It costs money, but we still think it is the right thing to do even at a cost.”
Vice Mayor Joyce Clark said she doesn’t think the majority of the population will put the plastics in the correct bins.
“It may work after, say, five years of education, but I am afraid we are confusing people and we should stay in the current program and not make more changes,” she said.
Cholla District Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff wondered if educating citizens would result in increased production and reduced contamination rates.
“How do we show residents what can and cannot be placed into the blue barrels?” Tolmachoff asked.
“Without technology improvements (to the MRF) how much more expensive would it be if residents sort into more than one barrel like other cities.”
Woytenko answered, “We looked at feasibility studies and facilities that do well with residents sorting their materials. More come in clean and with less contamination. We looked at ways to do that and we could move the needle (on reducing contamination) but it would not cover the costs of collection.”
Council agreed to continue the recycling program with the acceptance of two plastics instead of the current seven. The item will return for final approval.
Also at the workshop, staff provided an overview of the five landfill division — the landfill, gas management, solid waste administration, recycling and MRF.
The landfill division’s master plan provides a long-range, fiscally sound, development plan to maximize the life of the Glendale Municipal Landfill. The plan uses goals, objectives and strategies to implement the improvements outlined in staff’s plan.
“Approximately 355,000 tons per year are taken into the landfill and hopefully we do an efficient job compacting waste for the landfill,” Woytenko said.
The landfill is funded through gate receipts of citizens who dump waste, and the intergovernmental agreements with cities that dispose of their waste at the Glendale Landfill.
Projected revenues estimated for the upcoming year include $1.85 million from gate proceeds, $4.5 million from IGA’s, $2.9 million from solid waste collection and $1 million from MRF.