Old Bridge takes necessary steps for recycling service savings

OLD BRIDGE – Township officials are currently taking the necessary steps to seek savings on recycling services – the first step is a bid package to see whether they can get a better rate per household than the county’s new proposed rate.

The Middlesex County Improvement Authority (MCIA) currently provides bi-weekly curbside recycling collection for the township through Solterra Recycling. Paul Matacera, director of recycling for the county, presented proposed rate increases for the upcoming recycling contract at a Township Council meeting in December.

Matacera said the county approved a $6.9 million bid in November for Solterra Recycling to continue recycling services for the next five years. He explained while Solterra Recycling was the only viable bidder, the county did receive inquiry from Republic Waste and Waste Management.

“They wanted MCIA to control recycling and be responsible for the recycled material collected,” he said. “We do not want to be in the recycling process [business].”

With the current contract approved in 2014, households in Old Bridge are paying $2.68 a month for curbside pickup. A new contract advertised in fall 2019 increases the service fee to $5.28 per household in year one and year two will be determined by market conditions.

The new contract is expected to begin on March 31.

Kyle Harris, director of public works for Old Bridge, said the 2019 recycling contract totals $538,000. The proposed MCIA contract for 2020 will be prorated three months and total approximately $1 million and the proposed 2021 recycling contract is expected to total $1.2 million.

During a council meeting on Jan. 13, Township Business Administrator Himanshu Shah said the bid package will be due March 13. He noted the township will not have a chance to rebid since the Township Council will have to make the decision on whether or not to go with the county contract on March 16.

“Hopefully we will get multiple bids,” he said, adding increased recycling rates is a statewide issue.

Harris said MCIA has been providing recycling services for the township for close to 30 years. MCIA provides services to 16 of the 25 municipalities in the county.

Harris said township officials are currently looking at all options. He noted other municipalities outside MCIA either have their in-house recycling collection or have their own independent contracts.

Matacera said when he came to the county in June 2018, he put together a team to face the monumental change in cost of recycling efforts.

“This is a change we have never ever seen in the history of recycling to the point where there is debate whether it is still affordable to recycle,” he said. “From my perspective I think it is only because it’s part of the environment and the environment is worthwhile protecting. This is an international problem that we are facing.”

Matacera said the bid from Solterra came in lower than anticipated but “a heck of a lot higher” than the rates five years ago. The majority of increase is the cost of disposing of the material safely, he said.

“It was an increase that we anticipated, yet it was an increase that we are happy to say is a lot lower than what we thought we could get,” he said.

Harris said currently the township pays a flat price for every single resident in town for recycling whether they put out recycling or not. The township is also accepting a lot of curbside recyclables in the recycling yard, which the township pays for. The township is essentially paying twice for the recyclables, he said.

Officials have suggested stopping the acceptance of curbside recycled products at the recycling center and to reduce hours of the recycling center to the second and fourth Saturday of the month and close the recycling yard Tuesday and Thursday.

“About 90% of the traffic we see in the recycling center is specifically for these curbside items,” Harris said.

The recommendations of reducing recycling yard hours and not accepting curbside recyclables at the recycling yard would save the township $61,000, which would offset costs of increases in the proposed new recycling contract, Harris said.

Township officials said they will work on an information blitz for residents in the next few weeks on the expected changes to the recycling services in the township.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.