Dothan leaders mull options over recycling program’s future

“Because China has closed the door on recycling. What used to cost us $50 a ton to recycle is now $125 a ton.”

Dothan plotting future of city's recycling program

DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - While recycling may be eco-friendly, it’s not economically friendly for the city of Dothan. City leaders met Tuesday for a work session to discuss the future of the program.

“Recycling costs are going up and up," stated Public Works Director Charles Metzger. “Because China has closed the door on recycling. What used to cost us $50 a ton to recycle is now $125 a ton.”

According to Metzger, China was the largest customer for recyclable materials for the U.S. and now they are no longer accepting materials, which has put a pinch on the market.

Over 9,000 customers in Dothan participate in the recycling program. With the city paying $125 a ton to process materials, that translates to over $600,000 in yearly costs. The city isn’t getting any revenue in return.

“We’re paying $650,000 out to recycle and the $650,000 could be used for other things," Metzger said. "Road resurfacing, widening projects, whatever else in the general fund. Instead of all the money going out and nothing coming in.”

The city is making plans now to reopen and expand its landfill by 2020. Metzger says while recycling is supposed to help reduce capacity at landfills, it’s not much.

“Over 24 years, saves less than three percent,” Metzger explained. He’s calculated it would cost the city about $15 million to save that small chunk.

Some options city commissioners will weigh include suspending the curbside program and closing the unmanned dump sites. For those interested in recycling, they would drop off their goods during businesses hours at one recycling station run by employees.

City leaders believe closing the unmanned sites will also help save money because often people toss things there that don’t belong.

“That means we don’t spend man hours, time, money, having to clean those up,” said City Manager Mike West.

West said the city could also look into a partnership with a company that would be in charge of collecting recyclables to help maintain the service.

City Commissioners are expected to vote on the future of the program during their December or January meeting.

Copyright 2018 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.