GREEN RIVER– Last Thursday, Green River resident, Sarah Jensen Robles, posted a video to her Facebook page showing Wyoming Waste Systems dumping both her recycling and trash containers into the same truck.
SweetwaterNOW shared the video, and this resulted in several other residents commenting that they had witnessed similar events take place with their own recycling.
Michelle Foote, Wyoming Waste Systems Green River site manager, explained that they did dump recycling into the landfill last week, however, she said it was a particular case.
“The video doesn’t tell the whole story,” Foote said. “The load was already contaminated and we had one truck down and another truck in the shop.”
With a contaminated load and two trucks out of operation, Foote said they made the decision to dump the recycling with the trash so they could pick up the trash containers and stay on schedule.
Green River Mayor Pete Rust said the City of Green River has been looking into the situation since it was first brought to their attention last Friday.
“As soon as we heard about the co-mingling of the waste last Friday, we were meeting, monitoring the posts, and brainstorming how we could adequately investigate, address and respond,” Mayor Rust said.
Reed Clevenger, Green River City Administrator, said after looking into the situation, the city believes the current issues with recycling are temporary.
“We are monitoring Wyoming Waste’s operations, and have every reason to believe that the recent issues with the recycling collections are a temporary condition and we expect them to return to normal very soon,” Clevenger said.
Foote said as long as next week’s recycling is not contaminated, the collection will be recycled. The trucks are back up and running.
Delays in Approval for Use of Transfer Station
During the November 19, 2019 Green River City Council meeting, Foote announced they were starting up curbside recycling services again, as the compacter had been installed and the transfer station had been repaired.
However, according to Foote, the Wyoming DEQ has to give approval for the transfer station to be used, and that process has been delayed. Though she hopes they will receive that approval by the end of this week, she does not know for certain.
Clevenger expanded upon the issues that have caused the delay, which include electrical and fire issues.
“The new fire alarm system required new lines from CenturyLink that we did not expect and those need to be put in. The goal is to get all inspections approved at one time once the lines are in. The work orders are with CenturyLink now,” Clevenger said.
Contamination Remains an Issue
According to Foote, since starting up curbside recycling again, over half the loads have been contaminated with trash. Foote said when the loads are contaminated, they must take it to the landfill.
To learn what can and cannot be recycled, click here: https://www.wyomingwaste.com/. On the homepage of the Wyoming Waste Systems website is a feature called, “What goes where”, that allows the user to search items to find out if they can or cannot be recycled.
Part of the reason they must take contaminated loads to the landfill is because Wyoming Waste Systems simply does not have the resources to sort out large amounts of trash from the recyclables.
Foote explained that when they went out to bid for the contract with the City of Green River, they were the only company to offer trash, recycling, and yard waste services as part of their program. At that time, recycling still had a good market.
However, at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, the recycling market fell out. Foote said there is no breaking even and there is definitely no profit in recycling anymore.
Since the service is part of their contract with the City, they will continue to provide it. However, Foote said there are no extra fees implemented to provide a recycling program.
The rates increase that was put into place at the start of the year is in accordance with the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI). It is for all the services as a whole. It is stated in Wyoming Waste Systems’ contract with the city that they are allowed to determine rate increases and decreases according to the CPI.
A Need to Better Communication
Clevenger and Rust both noted the need for Wyoming Waste Systems to have increased communication with the community to better inform the residents on services.
“Wyoming Waste needs to continue to find alternative and increased communication avenues to reach the residents so that they can be better informed on services and issues,” Clevenger said. “They have made investments in equipment at the transfer station with the goal of improving recycling collections and they expect to begin using it once the building can be occupied and operational.”
Mayor Rust echoed Clevenger’s remarks, saying that it is the City of Green River’s priority to better communication and education between the residents and Wyoming Waste Systems.
“We will continue working to provide an equitable long-term solution, with the very clear priority of better communication and education to the public of and by our contractor, Wyoming Waste,” Mayor Rust said.