Mayor Kenney joined city officials today to unveil plans for the City’s new recycling contract with Waste Management. Under the newly proposed contract, 100 percent of recyclables will be processed at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). The City will pay $90 to $100 per ton to process the collected recyclables under a best-value contract, with incentives for decreasing recycling contamination. The City is currently operating under an interim agreement that mimics the terms of the proposed contract.

“The Streets Department along with representatives from Procurement and the Law Department worked intently to deliver a contract that combined fiscal responsibility with incentives for cleaning up the recycling stream,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Ultimately, the best value has been negotiated on behalf of all tax payers, getting us back on track with our goals for Zero Waste by 2035.”

Prior to negotiations, the City had been processing half of collected recyclables at an MRF while sending the other half for recovery at a waste-to-energy facility. The temporary process was in effect for nearly six months, following changes in the global recycling market that challenged the way municipalities around the world processed recycling. With China decreasing its contamination acceptance rate to less than .5 percent, many cities were left scrambling to determine how to process materials with substantially higher contamination rates.

“The shift in the recycling market coincided with the end of the City’s previous recycling contract,” said Michael Carroll, Deputy Managing Director for the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability. “Recycling has been a volatile market over the years, at times generating revenue and at other times costing the City millions to process. To be sustainable, we all need to reduce what we consume to produce the most favorable situation.”

The new contract will be supported with an educational campaign that emphasizes the call for a reduction in contamination. Contamination rates for the City of Philadelphia were last calculated at 19.2 percent in 2017 and at 25 percent nationally. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 75 percent of waste to be recyclable, of which only 34 percent gets recycled.

“We hope to change behaviors and attitudes towards recycling by simplifying our messages about what goes in the recycling bin and what stays out,” said Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams. “We are introducing a new educational component and tactics that include providing feedback directly to residents about what they are placing in the recycling bins at homes inadvertently or intentionally.”

During the event, SWEEP officers distributed recycling bins with lids and reusable tote bags to remind consumers to use fewer plastic bags. Interactive games included the “30-second recycling challenge” and brain-teasers related to plastic bags. The new educational component highlighted key messaging around “Recycling Right” and phrases such as “Take a Minute Before you Bin It.” The messaging utilizes graphics that make it easy to identify what and how to recycle. “Recycled materials should be kept dry and free of food or liquids,” said Kyle Lewis, the City’s Recycling Director. “This along with keeping all plastic bags and contaminants like greasy pizza boxes out of our recycling bins, will cut down on contamination and dangers to our workers and sorting equipment.”

Also, on hand at the event were representatives from Waste Management. Waste Management provides environmental solutions in North America for disposal and recycling for municipal, commercial and industrial customers. Waste Management also serves as a renewable energy provider. “Waste Management is pleased to be selected as the City of Philadelphia’s recycling provider,” said Carmen Perez, Waste Management Greater Mid-Atlantic area director of recycling. “We look forward to providing recycling education and utilizing technology solutions for processing today’s recycling materials. This will allow us to market the City’s recyclables to their highest and best use.”

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