The Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department (OCSWMD) has announced that the upcoming cancellation of the Drop-Off Recycling Program in May of this year.
This will mean the removal of the recycling stations in Byron, Oregon, Forreston, Monroe Center and Rochelle.
Due to conditions beyond the control of the OCSWMD, this program has become unsustainable at this time. Skyrocketing container hauling costs, contamination in the recycling stream, U.S. trade tariffs, and the Chinese ban on importing U.S. recyclables have all led the department to terminate this program for the foreseeable future.
“This has been a very difficult decision for us as we know how popular the program is, and that it is the only outlet for recycling for many County residents,” said Steve Rypkema, director of the Department. “We have kept this program going for over 24 years and feel terrible that it will end in May. Between the contamination and dumping problems at the sites and increasing costs, we have no choice.”
Since the start of the program in 1994, around 18,800 tons (or 37,593,212 pounds) of household recyclables have been collected, recycled, and diverted from local landfills. In 2018 alone, 806 tons were collected.
“What most people don’t realize, though, is the cost of the program,” he said. “In 2018, the hauling service for taking the containers to a transfer station in Rockford, where the materials are dumped and loaded into semi-truck trailers and hauled to a recycling facility in Homewood, Ill., increased by 17 percent and totaled almost $65,000.”
Since the contract for this service will be expiring in May of 2019, the OCSWMD sought bids last fall from five waste/recycling companies. Only one submitted a bid and it would have resulted in an additional increase of 135 percent. Under the new bid, it was estimated that the annual cost would go up to $163,000.
“That increase was just too much and was more than the Department had budgeted for the program, so the bid was rejected,” Rypkema said. “With no other companies bidding on the service, we had no alternative but to cancel the program.”
“Many users of the program mistakenly think we make money from the materials recycled,” he said. “This has never been the case, even when we received payment for the recyclables. The cost of hauling the materials to the recycling facility always exceeded the value of them. Currently, due to the state of the domestic and global recycling commodities market, the recycling facility actually charges around $65 or more per ton to accept and process the materials. The current waste hauler, Northern Illinois Disposal Service, has been absorbing that cost. That is on top of the transportation costs.”
The only bid received passed that cost onto the OCSWMD.
The reasons for ending the program are not just financial or local. Higher and higher levels of contamination in recycling bins have been creating problems for the U.S. recycling industry for months. Whether it is people throwing stuff in the bin with the hope that it can be recycled, even though it may be listed as unacceptable, or people just plain dumping waste into their recycling bins, contamination levels have risen to 25 percent-30 percent nationally.
“We have tried locally to educate the public and to pursue illegal dumpers, but with little success,” he said. “The amounts of waste in and around the drop off containers continues to grow. As an example, just before Christmas, someone dumped about 25 tires outside of the container in Rochelle. A few weeks before that, someone filled the Oregon container with corrugated plastic drainage pipes. Diapers, electronics, ash, paint cans, furniture, household trash, and other waste have been found in the bins. The sites have become dumping grounds for people who don’t seem to care about what we accept.”
Higher levels of contamination bring down the value of the materials and add to the cost of recycling. The waste removed from the loads at the recycling facility takes a longer and more expensive trip to the landfill.
“We are hopeful that in time, the domestic recycling infrastructure and markets for the materials will improve and we can reconsider our options for recycling in Ogle County, but for now, unfortunately, there are few options,” Rypkema said.
This will not affect curbside recycling programs in municipalities where hauling companies pick up recyclables at their residence. However, residents are urged to follow recycling guidelines for what is accepted.
In the waning days of the drop off recycling program, the Department asks users of the recycling stations to pay attention to what is accepted for recycling. When the program ends at the end of May 2019, please do not deposit any recycling materials in the lots or on any decks which may still be present at the recycling sites. The owners and operators of all sites have been notified of this situation. OCSWMD reminds people that open dumping of waste material, including recyclables, is illegal and may be punishable by fines.
In the meantime, the Department encourages residents who live in unincorporated parts of Ogle County to contact their local waste hauler for information on whether or not curbside recycling service is available in your area, and if not, to encourage them to provide the service. OCSWMD staff are also exploring other options to make recycling available to as many residents as possible. Contact OCSWMD at 815-732-4020 or visit www.oglecounty.org for more information.