- Wilmington, DE has been providing free waste and recycling collection to 97 commercial accounts for more than 20 years, costing city taxpayers an unknown amount of money over that period, as reported by The News Journal.
- This list was released by Mayor Mike Purzycki on Sept. 19 after an internal review. City officials expect that it may increase as more information is discovered. A large share of the accounts are schools, day cares, nonprofits and churches.
- The city believes these accounts were added to the list either as an oversight or a recognition of the service they provided to the community in past years. Starting in 2018, all accounts on the list will be required to hire their own collection service. This is expected to save Wilmington approximately $200,000 per year as a result.
The notion that no one knew this was happening seems perplexing at first. City officials believe that their predecessors were either trying to be charitable or took the situation for granted, rather than cut any deals. Former Mayor Dennis Williams was reportedly aware of the situation, but the review didn't get finalized until after the change in administrations this year.
Each city's approach to residential and commercial collection differs. Though making sure they know where funding for the service is coming from is often a universal element to any program. The closest recent example is that some cities have experienced confusion or litigation about the amount that certain accounts, such as large multi-unit buildings, are expected to pay for service. Though not directly related, city officials also discovered an additional 15,000 commercial accounts were being serviced in Los Angeles when they switched to a franchise system earlier this summer. As more cities improve their data collection systems and begin to make their programs more efficient this is less likely to happen in the future.
At a state level, Delaware has been making clear progress with its recycling efforts in recent years. The Delaware Solid Waste Authority's most recent annual report showed a 43% recycling rate for 2016. Within the past year, the state also updated its Universal Recycling Law and changed its approach to drop-off centers as part of an overall effort to improve diversion by reducing contamination. This may be a sign that, regardless of a shift in who will pay for these 97 commercial services, recycling rates across Wilmington and the state will continue to improve.