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City will collect its own recycling

March 7, 2012

The Public Works Department anticipates saving the city about $120,000 by having its own crews handle curbside recycling collection during the second half of 2012.

The effort comes as Wauwatosa looks at changes to its entire solid waste stream within the next year, Public Works Director Bill Porter said.

On Tuesday, the Common Council approved using city labor and equipment to collect recycling from Wauwatosa homes. The city attorney also was authorized to negotiate a contract with Franklin-based St. John's Disposal to process the city's recyclables at its soon-to-open recycling plant in Norway, Wis.

For the past decade, Wauwatosa has contracted with Waste Management for its curbside recycling collection, hauling and processing. In a good economy, the city received significant rebates on the sale of the recycled materials.

The proposal from St. John's actually increases the revenue on materials per ton by $5 - a significant amount given that 2,623 tons were recycled last year.

For the six-month period, the city would pay about $21,500 to St. John's, compared to paying Waste Management about $140,000 under the current contract.

There has been a sentiment, at least by Porter's predecessor Bill Kappel, that the city could do the job better and cheaper, Alderman Dennis McBride said last week when the issue came before the Budget and Finance Committee.

Porter sat down with Waste Management last year to talk about extending the contract at least until the end of the year, when the city's other solid waste disposal contracts are set to expire.

"We asked them to think out of the box," he said. "My preference was to renew, but we need to show savings."

Going into Christmas he hadn't heard back from Waste Management, so he started looking into other options. Recently, Waste Management did agree to extend the contract, but the ball was already rolling on less expensive methods.

City Administrator James Archambo credits Public Works staff with taking the initiative in finding a cheaper way to provide a city service.

"It would have been very easy to just extend that contract and get through," he said.

The plan to have city crews collect and haul recyclables to Norway is a temporary venture at this point. The mild winter has allowed Public Works crews to get ahead on activities that would usually have to wait until spring, Porter said.

He believes he can shift two laborers to truck driving positions and bring on two seasonal workers to empty the carts. If the city wants to pursue such an arrangement for the long haul, more brainstorming will be needed, Porter said.

This summer, the city will solicit bids from private and public entities to handle not only its curbside recycling collection and processing, but also yard waste disposal and operation of its transfer station.

The city compacts garbage at the transfer station at the Public Works Yard and has it hauled away by semi-trailer to a landfill.

An engineer has been hired to modify plans so it becomes a dual-use station with recyclables dropped off in the morning and garbage in the afternoon. If Wauwatosa wants to pursue doing its own recycling collection and processing in the long run, this would be a big step toward making that happen, city staff said.

A modified plan has been submitted to the state Department of Natural Resources, which will take up to three months to review it.

Wauwatosa already has ordered equipment to switch to automated garbage trucks, which are operated by a driver and an automated arm that picks up and empties garbage carts. That program is expected to start in July.

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