In the face of a global glut of recyclable materials and rising costs to process recyclables, DeLand city officials are leaning toward raising the cost of recycling for the city’s residents by 30 cents per month.
Cities around West Volusia, including DeBary and Deltona, have had to confront challenges with their recycling programs, due in part to international economic factors.
Historically, China has imported much of the world’s recyclables — more than 25 percent, in 2017 — enabling processing companies like the Orange City-based GEL Corp. to offer cities rebates that would typically cover the cost of processing recyclable goods.
Last year, however, China tightened its restrictions on what kind of waste it would import, causing an oversupply of recyclable goods and a crash in the prices of commodities like mixed paper.
“China was taking in so much at that point, and they changed the contamination rate that they would receive down to 0.5 percent,” DeLand Public Works Director Demetris Pressley said at the Feb. 18 DeLand City Commission meeting. “That’s a real tough measure to meet, and so that pretty much killed all of the recycling that was going into China.”
The contamination rate is the proportion of non-recyclable waste mixed in with recyclable goods.
Subsequently, companies like GEL have had to eliminate rebates to cities and bear the increased cost of processing themselves.
GEL processes the recyclable waste collected in DeLand and much of Volusia County under an agreement with the county, which the city participates in.
“At the end of last year, for about six months, we received no rebates in 2018,” Pressley said.
The agreement provides for a compensation review if the processing cost exceeds the “recovered material payment” for three calendar months. As a result, GEL proposed increasing its processing charge for recycling from $35 per ton to $80 per ton.
In order to continue the city’s recycling program, staff estimated that the annual costs would increase by $40,000, or approximately 30 cents per month per residential account.
In addition to the rate increase, Pressley also presented DeLand city commissioners the option of holding off on the increase for three to four months, while city staff would embark on a public education campaign in hopes of reducing the city’s contamination rate.
With a lower contamination rate, the city could possibly get a better processing rate for its recyclables. The city’s current contamination rate fluctuates between 25 and 30 percent from month to month, Pressley said.
“A lot of time the contamination comes from half-full bottles that are put into [recycling bins] that spill onto the newspaper and the cardboard and it contaminates it,” he said.
However, the city’s general fund would assume the increased processing cost in the meantime.
“I’d just hate while we sort through the educational process to have the general fund absorb it, and then go to a rate increase,” said Mayor Bob Apgar.
As a result, the commission directed city staff to bring back an ordinance that would raise the city’s residential recycling rate by 30 cents.
The increased rate would only take effect after the commission votes to approve the ordinance on two separate readings.
DeLand’s move is in contrast to how city officials in Deltona reacted to the downturn in the recycling market. The county’s largest city voted in January to abandon its recycling program until the market improves.
DeLand’s commissioners seemed averse to such a move.
“I don’t think we should have even a glimmer of thought that we’re not going to continue recycling,” said Vice Mayor Charles Paiva.
Elsewhere in West Volusia, the DeBary City Council voted to raise its solid-waste assessment fee from $179 to $209 per year, in part due to recycling market challenges.
Lake Helen and Orange City still currently retain recycling programs, as well.