Beaumont considers options to restore recycling

Mayor Becky Ames said the council appreciates the efforts city staff has made.

During a work session at their regular meeting Aug. 16, the Beaumont City Council discussed plans for restoring residential recycling in the municipality.

Waste Management once offered curbside recycling for Beaumont citizens who subscribed to the service. However, the company stopped offering the service in July due to its high cost. Now, the city itself is taking steps to support recycling in the municipality and has a plan to implement a new curbside recycling program and offset the costs of the service with a small subscriber fee.

“I’m very pleased to see this on the agenda,” Mayor Becky Ames said of a work session to discuss the newly proposed Curbside Recycling Program. “We appreciate the efforts our city staff has made. Our citizens, a lot of them, have asked us what is going on with recycling since Waste Management pulled out, and y’all stepped up to the plate,” she continued, addressing City Manager Kyle Hayes. “Our staff gets all the credit for this, and we appreciate it.”

“We are excited to discuss with you a proposed Curbside Recycling Program,” Hayes began. “We are in a position where we can pick up recyclables on your regular pickup day every week. So, whatever day you’re accustomed to picking up your trash … we would pick up recyclables on that day.”

Once the program is up and running, Hayes said, citizens who wish to participate in the program would pay $58 for a recycling can, a one-time payment on your utility bill. Once the $58 is paid, the city places an order for a navy blue recycling can with the same capacity as the green cans used for garbage collection. Participation in the program is voluntary, and subscribers would pay an additional fee with their monthly garbage fees.

“If 500 homes subscribe, which was the number Waste Management had at one time,” Hayes said, “the city would cover its projected annual costs by charging $11.50 per month. That’s something we will have to continually monitor during this program because the market does move quite a bit as it relates to recyclables and recycled materials, but we feel comfortable with the $11.50.”

Hayes said previous recycling service provider Waste Management charged subscribers $11 per month, but “could not make it work.” A call to Waste Management confirmed they charged customers $11.88 per month, billing every three months, for recycling.

“It should have probably been twice as much as that (to cover costs),” Hayes estimated. “We’re absorbing a lot of the cost with our staff and a truck. However, we feel confident we can do it with the way we manage the staff every day.

“There is a cost, and it’s about $14,000 for Waste Management just to take this waste.”

Hayes said that in addition to the estimated $14,000 annual processing fee, the city would incur costs for repair and maintenance of the garbage truck used for curbside recycling and for fuel. Hayes estimated  the total annual cost of implementing the program at $67,000 at this time. He said the $11.50 monthly charge would offset those costs. 

Ames said the cost of this service is minimal compared to another recycling program the city previously considered. She said after Waste Management stopped its recycling service, the city established a single drop-off site for recyclables. The site was so popular that council considered adding additional recycling sites, bringing up the total number to four in Beaumont.

“That was going to cost $900,000 or something outrageous, so I am very happy to see this,” Ames said at the meeting Aug. 16.

Ward 3 Councilman Audwin Samuel said the recycling program would benefit the environment and Beaumont in a number of ways, pointing out that it could “extend the life of the landfill” considerably.

Hayes said he feels certain the city can handle the recycling service. According to him, if the city had to pay for an additional staff member and truck, rather than absorbing those costs as they are now, it would likely cost subscribers $25 per month rather than $11.50. He credited Bengy Williams, the operations manager for the city sanitation department, for the cross-training and management of sanitation staff that allowed for the savings.

“Bengy Williams does an incredible job,” Hayes remarked. “He makes it happen. … You rarely get calls complaining about trash problems. We feel very confident that we can provide this service.”

If approved, the curbside recycling program would commence Oct. 1.