UPDATE: Columbus, OH approves $45M recycling contract with Rumpke

UPDATE: The Columbus City Council voted unanimously to approve a new five-year contract with Rumpke at its meeting on March 13, as reported by The Columbus Dispatch. The $45 million contract includes collection of recycling, yard waste and street bins. 

Local officials weren't happy with the cost increase, but the current contract ends this month and service disruption was seen as even more detrimental.  Per the ordinance, the city will continue to negotiate with Rumpke for potential cost savings over the next six months. The city's Department of Public Service will also deliver quarterly reports to the council on cost savings progress.

Companies that bid on the original contract in 2012, but chose not to this time, told the city that it could be more cost-effective to divide the city into separately bid zones or split collection from disposal. The new contract allows either Columbus or Rumpke to cancel with 180 days notice.

Dive Brief:

  • Columbus, OH could decide as soon as next week whether to approve a new five-year, $44.3 million contract with Rumpke for the collection of recyclables and yard waste. This cost is significantly higher than the city's current contract, but they only received one bid leaving them with little leverage, as reported by The Columbus Dispatch.
  • Rumpke's current contract with the city expires on March 31 and collections could be disrupted if a decision isn't made in time. City officials had anticipated a 5% increase in collection costs for the upcoming fiscal year and were surprised to see a proposed 35% increase instead.
  • The city plans to continue negotiating with Rumpke on potential cost-saving ideas such as route changes and suspended yard waste collection during winter months. The Columbus City Council will review the contract at its next meeting on March 13.

Dive Insight:

When Columbus started curbside recycling in 2012, the city estimated it would save between $13 to $15 million in landfill tip fees during the first five years. Due in part to the fact that about 26,000 eligible households didn't join the program, those savings have been closer to $8.5 million.

The city's overall participation rate is around 80% though and this level of engagement is an encouraging sign for officials to continue the program. This progress was evident in the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio's recent decision to cut back on the number of public recycling drop-off bins. Use of the bins has declined by almost 50% since 2011, coinciding with the start of curbside service in Columbus.

Over the past five years the economics of recycling have become tighter for some companies and Rumpke is far from the only one looking to renegotiate more favorable terms. While final details could change during upcoming negotiations the city will likely decide it's still better to spend more than lose recycling service entirely. The proposed contract also gives either party the right to cancel with 180 days notice so they may not necessarily be on the hook until 2022 if a better option becomes available.

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Filed Under: Collections & Transfer Corporate News Recycling
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