Saratoga County could cut its recycling costs if it stops requiring residents to separate their recyclables and went to single-stream recycling, according to a new consultant’s report.
The net cost of the county’s recycling program — costs minus revenue from selling the materials collected — was $477,000 in 2012, but consultant Hans Arnold said the county could potentially reduce that loss by two-thirds.
He said that could be done by converting the recycling centers to single-stream recycling, in which residents don’t have to separate paper, cardboard, glass and plastic. That separating is done later, at a commercial processing center.
A single-stream system would reduce trucking costs and allow the county to reduce staffing at the recycling centers, Arnold said. It also might boost the amount of recycling residents do, because they wouldn’t have to separate materials.
“Convenience is everything,” Arnold told the county Public Works Committee during a presentation Monday in Ballston Spa.
County officials were receptive to the recommendations, but noncommittal.
“There are a lot of variables. It’s not something we will make a decision on anytime soon,” said committee Chairwoman Jean Raymond, R-Edinburg.
The county recycling program, set up in the late 1980s, operates collection centers in Milton, Clifton Park, Saratoga Springs, Corinth and Moreau. It requires residents to separate newspaper, cardboard, magazines and office paper, metal cans, plastic, glass and scrap metal. The county pays to truck them to various markets that buy the materials.
The program costs about $1 million a year to operate, with costs partially offset by revenue — about $530,000 in 2012.
But the recycling centers in the last five years have seen a 41 percent decrease in the amount of material collected — from 5,920 tons in 2008 to 3,517 tons in 2012.
“That’s significant,” Arnold said.
The biggest reason for the decline, he said, is probably that commercial waste haulers, of which County Waste of Clifton Park is the largest locally, have in the last five years switched to single-stream for their curb-side collections. The county centers are still used by people who don’t have a commercial collection service.
The centers are part of a state-mandated county solid waste management plan, and there’s no prospect of their being closed entirely. Instead, Arnold said the county could cut its costs by combining staff with adjoining municipal transfer stations and by privatizing the trucking now done with county public works vehicles.
“With the dropping volume, this is the warning call that we are going to have to address this at some point,” said county board Chairman Alan R. Grattidge, R-Charlton.