Schenectady County

Single-source recycling delayed in Schenectady

Schenectady recycling isn’t going to change this year, despite instructions from the City Council to

Schenectady recycling isn’t going to change this year, despite instructions from the City Council to vastly expand recycling right away because it could save money.

Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen was directed last month to start negotiating with the city’s recycler in hopes of starting single-stream recycling this fall. However, he said he decided it was not in the city’s best interests to do so.

Instead, he’s finishing an information packet that will be sent out to recyclers who will bid on the city’s business. The council had told him to start single-stream now, with the city’s current recycler, and then work on getting bids.

“We thought we could do some of it now,” Council President Gary McCarthy said. “It may not be a perfect start, but we would have some savings.”

In single-stream recycling, residents no longer have to sort materials and they can recycle far more, not just common food containers, even children’s toys and other hard plastics.

Since those items would no longer be thrown away, the city would pay less in tipping fees at landfills. The city also would have to send out just one recyclables collection truck, rather than two, reducing vehicle costs and requiring fewer workers.

Council members wanted to achieve those savings immediately and told Olsen to make it work. McCarthy said he hadn’t expected Olsen to ignore the council’s direction.

“I’m surprised to hear that,” McCarthy said. “I would encourage him to rethink that.”

But Olsen said he doesn’t think single-stream will work until he can also provide large recycling containers with wheels. Every residence would get a container, but they would cost the city $1.5 million in materials and require upgrades to the city’s collection trucks. The council may not be willing to pay that much in a tight fiscal year.

Olsen said he doesn’t think residents will recycle much more if they only don’t have to sort materials.

“The new containers, I think, have a lot to do with people recycling,” Olsen said. “It’s a lot easier to wheel them to the road, rather than carrying them. Plus they’re larger. You can fit bigger pieces of cardboard in them.”

Switching to single-stream without first getting a bid that includes the containers might not be worthwhile, he added.

“Is it possible to do that? Yeah. I don’t know if that’s in our best interest,” he said.

But once the city selects a new recycler, he said he could start single-stream before getting the containers.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to implement this before the end of the year,” he said.

His bidding packets will be done within a few weeks, he said, and bidders will have 30 days to respond. That would allow the council to select a new vendor just before New Year’s.

“We’ve just got to get it done and out,” Olsen said.

But McCarthy still wants him to start single-stream recycling now. To do that, Olsen would have to negotiate a short-term contract amendment with the current recycler, who accepts single-stream recycling.

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