Recycling in Omaha (copy) (copy)

Sherrie Eastman, who works in accounting support for First Star Recycling, helps manage the recycling of cardboard at the facility.

The short-term deal the City of Omaha is considering on recycling serves the public interest. Given the current uncertainty about reaching a long-term recycling contract starting in 2021, it’s important that recycling service not be interrupted next year.

The newly announced proposal, for 2020 only, provides Omahans with that needed assurance.

The deal’s $2 million cost is within the range that city officials had anticipated, and Mayor Jean Stothert rightly calls the new deal “affordable and fair to our taxpayers.” The City Council expects to vote on the proposal next month.

The deal also provides a measure of short-term relief to Omaha’s current provider, Firstar Fiber, which has been pinched financially by the decline in the international recycling market. For example, Omaha would pay Firstar more on days when the city’s trash hauler takes longer than usual to pick up recycling, compelling Firstar to staff additional hours at its sorting plant. The city also would chip in more to maintain neighborhood drop-off sites when they get overrun by illegal dumping.

Firstar says it’s losing money on the current contract, which runs through 2020. The city responded by paying more in 2019 and stepping up the bidding process for the long-term recycling contract. But Firstar’s bid, with a price tag up to $4 million, went nowhere with city officials.

Stothert has directed the Public Works Department to develop a new bid request beyond the five-year window used so far, to attract more bidders. A potential participant could be FCC Environmental, the city’s trash contractor under the 10-year contract that begins in 2021.

With the city’s long-term recycling arrangement still a question mark, it’s important to ensure continuance next year. The proposal for 2020 provides that certainty and deserves the City Council’s approval.

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