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The South Florida Roundup

Price Of Recycling Skyrockets In Broward County, And One City Isn't Paying

Jesse Wagstaff via Flickr
Some Broward County cities are rethinking their approach to recycling in the face of rising costs.

The cost of recycling programs has doubled in some Broward County cities.


This month, the price increased when previous contracts with Sun Bergeron expired. Part of that company is now owned by Waste Management, which cities are blaming for the price hike.

In response to rising costs, Deerfield Beach suspended its curbside recycling program, and more than a dozen other cities in Broward County have signed new contracts to have their recyclables picked up.

Tom Hudson, host of The Florida Roundup, sits down with Dan Christensen, editor and founder of the online publication Florida Bulldog, who reported on Waste Management and the rising costs.

They’re joined by Michael Ryan, mayor of Sunrise, where recyclables will be treated at a waste-to-energy incineration plant, according to the Sun Sentinel. The third guest is Daniel Stermer, mayor of Weston, which is looking for bids for solid waste disposal, collection and recycling services.

WLRN: Explain how recycling collection works in Broward County. 

Christensen: It works differently in different cities. Basically for all the Sun Bergeron cities, it's what's called single-stream recycling, meaning that you have one cart for your garbage and regular trash and then you have recycling, where paper, plastic, that sort of thing, goes in. 

Sun Bergeron had been one of the players. Who are the companies that work with these municipalities? 

Sun Bergeron was the single-stream recycler for I think it was 17 cities within the county, including Fort Lauderdale. They have been pushed out now because Waste Management bought a company that owned half of the Sun Bergeron joint venture. And they would not renew the contracts under the terms that had been previously enunciated in a private way. 

What happened with the expiration? What happened this month with some of these contracts for these communities? 

Coral Springs led the way. They came up with a deal with Waste Management regarding this. I think it's 14 or 15 of the other cities piggybacked on it. And they continue to have their recycling done as before. Although, there are questions about how much of it's going to end up in the landfill. Two cities, Deerfield Beach and Sunrise, both decided not to go this much more expensive route, because all the cities that did do it their cost doubled. 

Michael Ryan, welcome back. What are the price hikes that you considered and you rejected? 

Ryan: As Dan said, the price hike was substantial. We were essentially going to go from about $50 a ton to $100 a ton. For our city, that would have been maybe $300,000 extra for taxpayers. But it wasn't just that hike. There were also provisions in these contracts that would allow the hauler to make a decision that there was too much contamination. 

For those of us who aren't knee-deep in recycling, what does contamination mean? 

Recyclables are a commodity. Right? Paper, glass, whatever. We've done a really good job of encouraging people to put things in the bit, but sometimes they put too much. They put the pizza boxes in or they accumulate their recyclables in plastic bags and they put those in the bin. And what happens is these haulers don't separate it. There's this idea that once it's in the bin somebody will pick through it and find the good stuff. It's not how it happens.

For us, recyclables are either for reuse or waste-to-energy. We made the decision in the interim to make sure that all of it's going to waste-to-energy. That is a way of handling recycling. It's not the public policy that we all want, and we need to do something about it. In the interim, that's how we see it. 

One of your fellow Broward municipal mayors also along with us, Weston Mayor Daniel Stermer. You are not party to any of this. Weston had its own separate recyclable contract. Does that remain in force? And what are the terms of that that others could learn from?

Stermer: It remains in force but currently we actually have an request for proposal on the street because our current hauling contract, which is solid waste and recyclables, expires next year. We currently are out on the streets soliciting bids and are waiting to see what the responses are. There are times where you want to be ahead of the curve and there are times where being at the backend of the curve is O.K. In some respects, we're watching what Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach, Sunrise and others are doing.

Does it worry you though because some of these cities did put out requests for proposal to try to avoid the price hikes, that Dan Christiansen has reported on, that your fellow mayor in Sunrise, Mayor Ryan, has experienced, and they got nothing back. There were no other companies out there. 

We are really concerned. There's a pricing issue. There's a where-is-it-going issue. But also there's who's watching the industry, which is allowing these prices conceivably to potentially be artificially inflated because they're driving competition out of the market. So there are a host of issues – whether it is haulers, whether it is where is it going. The question is, What's been the government oversight to date. 

This post was updated after the July 20, 2018 episode of The Florida Roundup aired.

Clarification: In the third segment of the July 20, 2018 episode of The Florida Roundup, WLRN’s Tom Hudson asked reporters Alexander Gonzalez and Caitie Switalski about the cost of participating in FPL’s pilot project for underground power lines. Switalski answered that there would be an additional cost for people who participate. FPL spokesman Bill Orlove later clarified that those customers will not pay anything extra. The pilot program is funded by the rates that all FPL customers are currently paying – regardless of whether your neighborhood is chosen for the project.

Alexander Gonzalez produces the afternoon newscasts airing during All Things Considered. He enjoys helping tell the South Florida story through audio and digital platforms. Alex is interested in a little of everything from business to culture to politics.
In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.