If you asked a room full of Mobilians if we are winning the war on litter, you probably wouldn’t see many hands in the air. In the past, the city has simply not devoted enough resources or attention to recycling, but that is all about to change. Our ultimate goal is to create a more robust recycling program while eliminating litter throughout our city.
Nationally, more than 34 percent of municipal solid waste is diverted from landfills through recycling efforts. Mobile’s diversion rate is a dismal 6 percent. Mobile is woefully behind the curve, partially due to having only one recycling location, at 1451 Government St., a facility leased and staffed by the city. In order to move the needle, we studied municipal recycling operations in other cities.
To increase the rate of recycling, we ultimately decided to expand our drop-off centers to locations throughout the city, so recycling would be more convenient to more citizens. We are also transitioning to a single-stream method to create a more accessible, less burdensome experience for citizens, because they will no longer be required to sort their recyclables. The city is joining five other community recycling programs to establish a regional recovery area that will feed into a large materials recycling facility.
The current contracts awaiting City Council approval are to begin this progressive recycling program. The first contract is for hauling services to deliver the material and the second contract is with the materials recycling facility to accept and process the material.
The Emerald Coast Utilities Authority Materials Recycling Facility in Cantonment, Florida, is a public utility that will accept single-stream recyclables, and has the capacity to efficiently and responsibly handle Mobile’s volume. The contract with Amwaste LLC, a materials management company, will place the right piece of collection equipment at several sites throughout the city as we haul the recycled product from those sites to the materials recycling facility.
The financial case for expanding recycling to our citizens is strong. We expect to save at least $15 per compacted ton of product diverted from the landfill. The city currently pays $37.50 per ton in tipping and transfer fees to put material in our landfill, in addition to the expense of collection.
Recyclables diverted from this waste stream will avoid those landfill tipping fees. Annual savings from closing the Government Street facility is expected to cover the annual cost of equipment rental and hauling. Both of these contracts reflect best practices we learned from other cities.
When recycling is more convenient and less confusing, more people recycle, and people who recycle are less tolerant of litter. This is the next step in making Mobile a cleaner, greener community that cares deeply for its natural resources and watersheds.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson
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