Recycling revived in Santa Rosa County

Reviving recycling in Santa Rosa County will cost $320,000 a year and could leave the county trapped in contract for at least two years under a proposal from Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA).

The Board of County Commissioners approved that agreement July 11, finally reviving the county’s recycling program.

Santa Rosa recyclables have been heading directly to the dump since April after ECUA terminated the recyclables processing agreement before the contract’s scheduled expiration in September.

ECUA cited cost concerns about a drop in international demand for recyclable materials and load contamination as justification for the action. Even clean recyclables cannot be stored long term, so the materials were being thrown away rather than sold to fund the recycling program.

After months of back and forth, ECUA delivered a new, more expensive agreement. This contract would amount to roughly 6,000 tons of recyclables processed annually at a cost of $320,000. That cost does not account for rejected loads due to contamination.

Commissioner Lane Lynchard said in a July 8 board meeting he felt the county should engage in the agreement. He pointed out that the only governments able to continue recycling in the current market are those that have begun subsidizing their programs.

“It gives us two years to observe the market and see what happens with recyclables,” he said.

He went on to say that recycling is about more than dollars and cents.

“People think there is a value with recycling, and there is not from an economical standpoint,” Lynchard said.

But Santa Rosa County Attorney Roy Andrews said he had concerns about the contract language proposed by ECUA. In essence the contract would lock Santa Rosa into the contract for two years with no way out unless ECUA failed to meet their service obligation.

As long as the recyclable loads reached ECUA’s Perdido Key processing plant, that agreement would essentially be met.

On the other hand, ECUA could exit the agreement for any reason with only seven days notice.

In an email to ECUA, Santa Rosa asked for modifications to the contract to allow them an escape clause. ECUA Deputy Executive Director of Shared Services Randy Rudd replied rejecting the changes

“These changes would allow (Santa Rosa County) to walk away from the agreement anytime the recyclables market drops and the cost to process the materials increases,” Rudd wrote in an email. “If SRC is not willing to assume the risk of the higher processing costs during periods of low recyclable commodities values, the ECUA could use the capacity being reserved for (Santa Rosa County) for other entities who are willing to assume that risk.”

Rudd went on to write that ECUA will maintain its seven day termination policy.

“The seven day notice is not negotiable,” he wrote.

Despite the misgivings, the board opted to accept the new contract and will be launching a public awareness campaign in the hopes of decreasing load contamination. A single can of non-recyclables can contaminate an entire load, adding to already rising costs.

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