DPW Chief: South Orange Breaks Even on Single-Stream Recycling Cost, Revenues


SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Being green has not led to an increase in green for South Orange.

Since switching to single-stream collection in July 2012, the village is breaking even financially based on what it pays its collector and how much it gets paid for the recyclables, according to Department of Public Works Director Tom Michetti.

South Orange holds two contracts with the Giordano Co. for recycling services – one covering curbside pickup and one covering collection at the DPW depot. For the single-stream curbside collection contract, which expires on Dec. 31, the village agrees to pay the company the fixed amount of $9,440 per month. The Giordano Co. then delivers the material to a marketplace, with South Orange receiving all revenues earned for it.

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For single-stream recycling, the village is paid a fixed rate of $58 per ton of recycled material, Michetti said. This differs from dual-stream recycling (the former method of curbside collection), for which South Orange was paid based on the New York edition of the Official Board Market prices for the month. Michetti said the OBM prices are based on a number of factors including the weather and the Chinese economy, making the recycling market unpredictable. Thus, with dual-stream the village potentially could have been paid more than $58 per ton.

The DPW depot still utilizes dual-stream collection for residents who drop off recyclables there, Michetti said. In the second contract, which took effect on April 1 and lasts until March 31, 2018, the Giordano Co. agrees to pay South Orange 100 percent of the OBM prices for material from the depot. Additionally, Michetti said the village is guaranteed to be paid a floor price of $58 per ton for depot material in the event that the OBM prices drop significantly.

Though Michetti said that he didn’t know if single-stream recycling would always lead to a profit, he said coming out even is not necessarily a bad thing.

“Breaking even in this business is pretty good for a municipality,” Michetti said.

Michetti also pointed out that it actually cost the village more to do dual-stream collection using town employees than outsourced single-stream collection. In other words, single-stream recycling might not lead to a major gain in revenue, but it does cut costs.

Michetti said he likes the single stream process because of its positive impact on the environment. Since switching, recycling in South Orange has increased by 30 percent, according to Michetti. The process is easy because it doesn’t require the separation of material and more types of items are being accepted, encouraging more people to participate. As a result, recycling is now collected twice a month.

Trustee Howard Levison said he prefers single-stream collection, which he described as “extremely effective” in meeting the village’s recycling objectives. Though it took two years to implement, Levison finds most residents are happy with the single-stream pickup as well.

“The overall majority has stated they love it,” he said.

In fact, single-stream recycling has been so successful in South Orange that Levison said other phases have been planned, including composting of vegetative waste and food waste recycling. Levison said the village has even had discussions with Maplewood about contracting for the service together to offset costs since both towns use single-stream recycling.   

The reporter is a student participating in hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.

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