Recycling proposal hits roadblock

The South Orange Board of Trustees did not take action on a resolution to reject a recycling contract at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 26.

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange Board of Trustees did not take action on a resolution that would have rejected a proposal received for recycling collection in the village at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 26, leaving the resolution to be added to the board’s next meeting, on Monday, Nov. 9. A vote to table the resolution ended in a 3-3 tie; Village President Sheena Collum could not be at the meeting and therefore did not cast the tie-breaking vote. Trustees Steve Schnall, Walter Clarke and Karen Hartshorn Hilton voted against tabling the resolution, while trustees Bob Zuckerman, Donna Coallier and Summer Jones voted in favor.

A Request for Proposals was issued by South Orange for recycling services, and Giordano Recycling was the only company to submit a proposal. Village Administrator Adam Loehner said at the meeting that South Orange’s current recycling contract, also with Giordano, went into effect five years ago; it is a three-year contract that has had two one-year extensions.

“We knew coming into this year we were going to have to take a hard look at how we do things, or really try to come up with a scenario of what we’re going to do differently, because we know that we’re going to have a higher contract,” Loehner said.

In doing research earlier this year, Loehner said that the village administration asked surrounding towns what they were doing to reduce the cost of recycling pickup.

“They were reducing pickups. People were doing their own separating; they were going back to separating cans, bottles, paper and cardboard,” he said. “We’ve been trying to grapple with how best to move forward. We put this bid together thinking, ‘Let’s put everything we want in a bid and see what comes back.’ Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in the past, we don’t get a lot of bidding. So we’re trying to figure out whether we want to continue with pickup or change the way we do it and have a drop-off center.”

Jones pointed out that, if the village puts out another request for a bid and does not receive a cheaper contract proposal, residents who are not able to drop off recycling at the Department of Public Works during the day and senior citizens would have problems recycling. In response, Loehner said he is confident the DPW could have extended hours to allow for recycling drop off, though he did not yet have a plan for senior citizens.

Coallier said at the meeting that she wanted more information about what the plan would be, in the event the village does not receive another bid.

“We need to know whether the DPW can handle this,” she said. “We need to know how we’re going to handle people that can’t get there during the day. We need to know the cost of handling all that extra stuff, and we need to have it in our head that we’re likely not to get other bidders. It’s between that and this alternative, and we don’t know what that is yet.”

Many residents sent messages to be read during the public comment portion of the meeting, including members of the South Orange Environmental Commission. Lorraine Graves, who sits on the commission, asked the trustees to reject the proposal.

“Everyone by now is familiar with the pitfalls of single-stream recycling,” Graves said. “It often leads to contamination of materials. We should use this moment as an opportunity to revamp and enhance our way of treating municipal solid waste. The way of the future is to embrace a zero-waste approach, which will incorporate waste prevention, reuse and repair, as well as recycling. It is a more comprehensive approach and will improve environmental benefits, as well as reduce monetary costs in the long term.”

Environmental Commission Chairman Bill Haskins also sent comments to be read during the meeting. He, too, asked the board to reject the proposal.

“We have invested a lot of time on working on the issues around reducing municipal solid waste,” Haskins said. “All of these reduction efforts were partially driven by concern that recycling, as we have seen in the news over and over, isn’t working. It is time to move on and work on improving our approach to municipal solid waste in South Orange.”