EDMONTON — Communities neighboring Barren County continue to feel the effects of a tariff imposed by China on U.S. Recyclable materials, such as plastic, glass and cardboard.
Metcalfe County is trying to find buyers for its recyclable materials but isn't having much luck.
The county's judge-executive, Harold Stilts, addressed the city council Monday night regarding the issue.
“As all of you know recycling centers are closing everywhere,” he said. “They are doing away with recycling because of the tariffs on recyclables have caused the prices to go to the bottom. Plastic bottles are worth nothing. You can't even give them away now. Cardboard is down to about $30 per ton.”
Stilts explained to the council that he met with Edmonton Mayor Doug Smith and Edmonton City Administrator Dawn Devore three weeks ago and discussed the future of the county's recycling center to see if something could be worked out to keep it in operation.
The judge-executive presented the city council with copies of receipts for the recycling center dating back to the 2016 fiscal year. He also presented the city council with a document showing the recycling center's total operating expenses and losses.
The recycling center had $105,189.57 in total receipts, but also a loss of $105,274.76 for the 2019 fiscal year, according to the document.
“It's been a thing that hasn't made (any) money. It's been in the hole this past year, $105,000 deficit,” he said.
For the first six months of the 2019-20 fiscal year, the county only sold $6,000 worth of recyclables, Stilts said.
“With that being said, I say the future of the recycling center is in jeopardy,” he said. “It is something we will have to let the fiscal court weigh in on whether we continue to operate it.”
Stilts pointed out the county has a contract with Sumitomo in Edmonton to take the company's cardboard until June 30, but he is unsure what the county will do after that date.
“It is potential that we could close our recycling center,” he said.
The judge-executive said by continuing to operate the recycling center to June 30, the deficit could be $150,000.
Councilwoman Teresa Hamlett questioned how the county could have such a deficit for the recycling center in just a year's time.
Stilts explained that the expenses that are incurred with operating the recycling center has led to the deficit, plus not being able to sell the recyclable items.
Councilwoman Cathy Nunn asked how much the county spends in payroll for employees who work at the recycling center.
“Employment is running about $60,000 to $70,000 a year,” Stilts said.
The county employs two full-time and two part-time employees at the recycling center.
“And of course you've got to figure all of the benefits there. You've got health insurance. You've got retirement. You've got Social Security, workman's comp and unemployment you've got to play on each employee,” he said.
Nunn asked if the county could use part-time employees rather than the full-time employees, and Stilts said the county may have to cut back and do away with some part-time employees and only have the recycling center open two to three days a week to make it work.
He continued that some neighboring counties have either reduced or discontinued their recycling services.
“It's just one of those things where costs keep going up,” he said. “I know this year this fiscal year we are looking at about $250,000 in jail costs. That's been going up pretty good and some other expenses we've got to look at. We've got to look at cutting somewhere.”
Stilts told the city council the issue with the recycling center was something he wanted to bring up and to see if there was anything the city and county could do to keep it going.
The city council took no action on the matter on Monday night.
The city of Tompkinsville is in basically the same type of predicament.
The city commission has voted to suspend the city's recycling service for six months.
Mayor Scotty Turner explained the city's recycling service was suspended because "the price of the products had dropped off so much. I know the last load that we took and sold was cardboard and last year at this time when we were selling a load we would get anywhere from $1,600 to $2,000 and the last load we sold we got $434 out of it. So, the price has really dropped off from it.”
Turner said the tariff is a big part of the reason why the city isn't getting as much for its recyclables.
The recycling service is likely to remain suspended.
“Financially, we have to because we can't afford to pay employees and operate the vehicles stuff,” he said.
The one employee assigned to the recycling center got another job, so the city didn't have to place him with another department, the mayor said.
Other communities have followed suit.
“I know Bowling Green is not recycling any longer and a couple of other cities around. I think Burkesville has suspended their's and different cities around have complete stopped recycling,” Turner said.
Monroe County Judge-Executive Mitchell Page said he would not be interested in working with the city to restart the recycling service.
“Bowling Green just quit their's recently. Clinton County has just quit,” he said, adding that he didn't think the county should get involved with a program that would cost the county several thousands of dollars.
The city of Glasgow, however, has no intentions of scaling back its recycling program.
“Recycling is never a profitable thing. It saves us thousands and thousands of dollars at the landfill,” said Glasgow Mayor Harold Armstrong. “It's a service and we keep finding areas of recycling that keeps it from costing us so much. In years past, it's always been a shortfall.”
By recycling, the life of the Glasgow Regional Landfill is extended.
Glasgow is looking is looking at pulverizing glass on its own rather than taking it to a facility in Somerset to have it done. By crushing the glass, it can be used in the place of mulch, the mayor said.
“It's something we can use in the future,” he said.