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City Talks With Rumpke Not Producing Recycling Savings

When the City of Columbus signed a 5-year, 45 million dollar contract with Rumpke for curbside collection of yard waste and recyclables in March, City Council members urged officials to try and find ways to lower those costs. But so far, that goal has not been achieved. Jim Letizia reports.  

The city has been negotiating with Rumpke for months to try to cut costs, but neither side has agreed to the terms offered by the other. Rumpke was the only bidder on the 5-year contract, which was 50 percent higher than the cost of the previous agreement. Columbus Public Service Director Jennifer Gallagher told council this week the two sides have struggled to find savings without cutting service, in part because the deal is still better than those in other cities.

"And,  basically what we have found from talking with many other cities is  we actually have a pretty good deal with Rumpke.  For example, Columbus pays Rumpke $1.70 per household, to pick up recycling and yard waste every other week.  Another city, as comparison, is Cincinnati:  pays Rumpke $2.20 just to pick up the recycling."

Gallagher says the two sides discussed several options, including the use of software to make the collection routes Rumpke uses more efficient.  Gallagher says the two sides then focused on changes to yard waste collection, but the cost savings were minimal and there were operational issues involved.  

"So then we continued to talk to them and what we found was that there really wasn't going to be any savings on the recycling side of the program without drastically reducing service to the citizens, and we did not want to do that at this time.  So, we went back and started looking at the yard waste piece of the proposal, which was again about half of the cost of the contract we are currently in.  Some of the things we looked at there was whether the City should do the yard waste in-house, whether we should completely eliminate the yard waste program, whether we should reduce the yard waste program to seasonal..."

Gallagher says two sides also discussed limiting the number of bags Rumpke would collect from each household to 10. But that would be difficult to enforce. The city also asked Rumpke to look at eliminating or limiting alley service and enforcing a six-bag limit. But that wasn’t feasible. Gallagher says the city now plans to ask the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio to study recycling.  

"What we ended up with is currently just staying with the contract that we have with Rumpke.  However, we are working with SWACO on a grant request to study the recycling, and ways to improve that, and expand participation.  We believe that if we expand participation, get more clean recyclables coming in to the city, that will only help drive down our costs."

Gallagher says the city is still looking for ways to cut costs. 200 thousand households participate in the recycling program launched in 2012. At that time, the city estimated a 15 million dollar savings primarily in the tipping fees it pays for refuse disposal. But the city wound up saving only 7.9 million dollars. 


Jim has been with WCBE since 1996. Before that he worked as a reporter at another Columbus radio station, and for three newspapers in Southwest Florida.
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