By: Dennis Hohenberger
Article Credit: MassLive
HOLYOKE — The City Council agreed to a five-year regional contract to process the city’s recyclable materials.
With sharp price drops in the commodities market and China’s refusal to accept the waste from the U.S. and other foreign markets, 70 Western Massachusetts municipalities must now pay to process and separate the recyclables.
Mayor Alex Morse must sign the contract by a Jan. 31 deadline. If finalized, the deal starts July 1, the start of fiscal 2021. Two, five-year extensions are included in the contract.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection awarded Waste Management Recycle America the contract. The company currently operates the Western Massachusetts Recycling Program at the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility.
Waste Management remains the largest trash and recycling collector in the U.S., followed by Republic Services.
Councilor Joseph M. McGiverin, who chairs the Finance Committee, said the contract and the state of the recycling industry was an “eyeopener.” He said recycling is good for the environment and lowers trash tipping fees.
The city operates on a dual-stream, which separates recyclables and non recyclables. The contract contains a “contamination” clause that penalizes a community for allowing forbidden materials into the recycling stream.
McGiverin added that some opportunities exist in the contract for the City of Holyoke to make a small profit on paper. The city can opt-out of the agreement at any time.
Councilor Howard Greaney wants a “check and balance” on the amount of tonnage collected.
Ward 4 Councilor David Bartley said the Department of Public Works should launch on a public education campaign on recycling practices. He also wondered how the city would budget for the $160,000 annual fee.
In a recent statement, Morse said he opposed the contract that ensures continued profits for Waste Management and its shareholders.
“This isn’t just about Holyoke. Seventy cities and towns in Western Massachusetts are now being told that they need to foot the bill for recycling,” Morse stated.
Morse said he would work with surrounding communities on alternatives and lobby the state for financial assistance to offset the costs.
Holyoke DPW Superintendent Michael McManus told the Finance Committee he would continue to seek recycling alternatives. He said single-use plastic bags and shredded paper are excluded from the recycling stream, mostly ending up in landfills.