Employees laid off as Montgomery's recycling facility grinds to a halt
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Heralded as a first-of-its-kind recycling facility when it opened in Montgomery in April 2014, the Advanced Mixed Materials Recovery Facility, known as IREP, has "temporarily ceased operations," according to the company's owner, Infinitus Energy.
The City of Montgomery was notified of the suspension Thursday with company management citing falling prices in the commodities market for the decision. City spokesman Griffith Waller said the city will divert trash to its landfill until the facility resumes operations.
The facility employs approximately 110 people. A majority of those employees have been laid off and will not be paid while the facility is non-operational. The employees however have not been fired, so if the facility re-opens, they can come back to work.
IREP and the City of Montgomery will meet on Oct. 22 to discuss alternatives to be put back in operation.
The $35 million facility, a public-private partnership located on Louisville Street off the Northern Boulevard, was designed to make recycling considerably easier for Montgomery residents. No longer did they need to separate their trash before recycling. They could simply take it to the curb.
IREP then sorted the garbage using a high-tech separation method. The system's managers boasted its ability to process 225,000 tons of trash annually while keeping up to 80 percent of the waste out of landfills. The recyclable materials like cardboard, mixed paper, metals, aluminum cans, and plastic were then sold off to private companies while the rest of the trash was taken to the city's landfill.
"One key element of a successful materials recycling program is the ability to sell recovered material at a price that will support the recycling process," said Kyle Mowitz, Infinitus CEO. "While our customers have been satisfied with the material we have reclaimed unfortunately the market price for these materials have dropped dramatically."
Montgomery was the only municipality using the facility when it came online, but with hopes others would join in. "This is something that we knew would not make money this first year," Mayor Strange said in November. "Right now, we have to pay $50 a ton at the landfill, but if we can cut that to $35 or $40, we'll save millions as we go forward."
Now the company is looking for a way to move forward.
"We plan to meet with all project participants in the coming weeks, and with Mayor Todd Strange and city officials later this month to review a detailed plan that would allow us to resume operations," the company said in a statement Monday. "It is possible to minimize the impact these temporary conditions will have on the City's long term goals of recycling and diversion, by keeping the facility in operation and working together until the markets improve."
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