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Single-stream recycling in Tallahassee and Leon County faces uncertain future

(WCTV)
Published: Feb. 5, 2020 at 6:06 PM EST
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By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News

February 5, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Recycling in Tallahassee and Leon County could be in trouble, but the local governments and Marpan Recycling say they are doing everything they can to keep the service.

According to a poll on WCTV's Twitter page,

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Marpan Recycling sent a letter to the municipalities back in December, explaining that the single-stream process isn't financially feasible anymore, due to global market conditions.

The company has contracts with Tallahassee and Leon County dating back to 2013.

Single-stream recycling includes plastics, aluminum and steel cans, mixed paper, and cardboard.

Kim Williams, the President of Marpan Supply and Recycling, said plastics are holding the industry together right now.

Tallahassee and Leon County are currently negotiating an interim agreement with Marpan, paying more per ton for a year to keep the business afloat.

"We're willing to help, we're willing to pay part of the cost but we can't foot the whole bill," said Williams. "And the County and City stepped up. They've agreed in kind with that and we're in the process of finalizing an arrangement when we can continue this for a year."

Numbers in Leon County show that at least 75% of residents recycle or use the county's rural waste facilities; the City of Tallahassee also says it has a high participation rate in its recycling program.

In 2018, almost half of the recycling market disappeared in a day.

"China bought 45% of the single stream recycling products and on January 1, 2018, they stopped," explained Williams. "There's not enough revenue to pay the bills."

The current mixed paper price is negative $2.50 a ton.

"That means we bring it through the plant with all the equipment that you've seen operating, all the people you've seen touching it by hand, and we bale it, and we set it over here. And they back a truck up, and we load it. And we owe them $2.50 a ton to take it away," said Williams.

The City of Tallahassee created the first curbside recycling collection in the state of Florida 30 years ago.

City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow wants to see it continue.

"We need to be a leader, we can't just go back to throwing things in a landfill," he said.

Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier suggests bringing recycling together from other counties, or finding new uses for the materials close to home.

"I really hope we can explore those options so maybe our entrepreneurs can have a piece of this and maybe help the community," said Dozier.

Williams believes in the importance of recycling.

He says the energy saved by recycling in our area is enough to power Florida State University for a year, or FAMU for three years.

"If you lost the momentum that we've had over the last 8 or 9 years in Tallahassee, it'd be a shame," said Williams.

According to a City spokesperson, preliminary numbers show that the current program could continue with a rate increase of one dollar per month for residents. That's one option that Commissioners will look at in an upcoming meeting.

It's important to note that Marpan provides more services than single-stream recycling; other parts of its business are not in jeopardy, and will continue to operate as normal.

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