Township locks in for 5-year garbage-collection contract

Photo by Amanda Valentovic
Environmental Compliance Officer Wayne DeFeo explains the new recycling contract at the July 17 West Orange Township Council meeting.

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The Township Council approved a resolution awarding the township’s refuse and recycling contract to Suburban Disposal for a five-year period at its July 17 meeting, at the cost of $2,867,554 per year. The resolution passed 3-1, with Councilman Joe Krakoviak being the only opposing vote. Council President Susan McCartney recused herself from the vote. The council also approved a five-year contract with Interstate Waste Services of New Jersey, which will handle the West Orange School District’s recycling and waste disposal; this contract had also already been approved by the West Orange Board of Education.

According to Theresa DeNova, chairwoman of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, the household refuse pickup will cost the township $1,198,554.50 for twice-a-week trash pickup in addition to $796,000 for once-a-week pickup of bulky trash, large items and televisions. Once-a-week recycling will cost West Orange $873,000. When broken down, the cost of trash pickup and recycling is $170.98 per household per year or $14.25 per household per month.

The contract is obtained through a bid process, and DeNova said Suburban Disposal was the only bidder on the contract. The township administration recommended the length of the contract.

“We felt that, with everything that is happening with the price of recycling down, we haven’t gotten any indication in this five-year term that it will get better,” DeNova said at the meeting. “We thought it would be better to lock in the price that we got.”

DeNova also said that she believes the price per household for waste and recycling pickup is good when compared to the services that the town offers.

“In comparing what we pay for other services that we pay for in our home, what you pay for your telephone bill, or your internet bill or your cable bill, $14.25 a month is very well worth what the cost is,” she said.

Environmental Compliance Officer Wayne DeFeo, who also serves on the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, explained why recycling and waste pickup prices are increasing.

“All commodities change over time,” DeFeo said at the meeting. “This is probably the fifth down market in recycling I’ve experienced. The biggest issue in recycling right now is wishful recycling. Everyone is wishing to recycle more and they’re putting the wrong thing in the recycling bin. When they do that, they contaminate the material.”

According to DeFeo, China, which was receiving U.S. recyclables, is no longer willing to sort out the contaminated materials, which is driving the cost up. Because of this, vendors don’t see reward in the business.

The cost of the new contract is a 65-percent increase over the preceding contract with the company, and Krakoviak said the town should consider a shorter contract or offer fewer services to bring the cost down.

“If this is a bid that is way over whatever the market is doing right now then that would inform us that perhaps we should not lock it in for five years,” he said.

John Gross, the township’s chief financial officer, said that if the council were to open the contract to more bids, the price would only go up. He added that between options of one, three and five years, the committee decided five years would be the most valuable.

“This is only going to go up if we go back out. I definitely was against going with one year, because in my mind this is only going to escalate in the next year,” Gross said at the meeting. “You have to make a judgment call between three and five years. The committee felt strongly that it wasn’t worth rolling the dice on three years.”

In response to the idea of reducing the services offered by the town, Business Administrator Jack Sayers said, “We’re providing a specific amount of services, and the administration is committed to still providing those services to our community.”

“We’ve hosted two Realtor open houses and had them go over services, particularly on this subject,” Councilwoman Michelle Casalino said at the meeting. “I have to tell you, they were wowed. New residents were wowed with our services. It is a great selling point here in the township. It’s a conversation to be had, but I know I wouldn’t personally recommend changing the services because I see it as a great attraction to the township.”