UPDATE: Eleven companies attended a pre-bid meeting for the Boulder MRF contract on March 6, as reported by the Daily Camera. Current operator Eco-Cycle was joined by Waste Management, Alpine Waste and Recycling, Western Disposal, Midwest Waste and others.
The county said a main requirement is that the winning bidder help it achieve the goal of becoming "zero waste" by 2025, with a focus on capturing higher quality recyclable material. Under the proposed fixed-price contract, the MRF operator would be expected to pay the county $2.7 million per year. That would equal roughly $55 per ton and the county says its average ton is currently worth $105. The county would receive 80% of any additional revenue. The winning bidder would also be expected to hire an environmental education coordinator and keep as many current employees as possible.
The contract would run for five years, with the option for three one-year extensions. Bids are due in April, the county will approve the winner by July and operations would begin in October.
- Colorado's Boulder County is issuing a request for proposals (RFP) to operate its recycling center after deciding the current cost-plus contract structure has become financially untenable, as reported by the Daily Camera.
- The nonprofit Eco-Cycle has run this facility since 2001. Last year, they received $3.2 million to operate the facility.
- The county will switch to a fixed-price contract to mitigate shifts in commodity prices. Eco-Cycle plans to bid on the new proposal and the county has also targeted at least 10 national entities with relevant experience.
Eco-Cycle helped bring early recycling access to residents in the city of Boulder more than 40 years ago and has grown to become a big part of the region's recycling efforts since then. The nonprofit's Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials, located around the corner from the county's MRF, is frequently cited as an innovative example of achieving high landfill diversion rates without using mass burn combustion. The facility adds a new category of accepted material each year — including electronics, various plastics, bikes, mattresses and many more.
Whether the loss of this MRF contract would derail these efforts is still unclear. While Eco-Cycle has experience with this single-stream facility that processes more than 45,000 tons per year, it could face competition from much larger companies. Local hauler Western Disposal is seen as one potential bidder and the top three national players all have a presence in the region as well.
Though some commodity values have shown positive signs in recent months, local governments and large companies alike are looking for more ways to insulate themselves from risk. As Boulder County works toward "zero waste" like so many others, it will need to ensure that the math works along the way.