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SEP 09- SEP 17, 2014

Dyster's Trash Numbers are Trash
Slight increase in recycling doesn't offset spike in costs

By Frank Parlato

September 09, 2014

Like it or not, it actually was cheaper to do it this way....

At a council meeting last week, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster reported that, according to figures calculated by the city's waste handler, Modern Disposal Corp., his new trash program showed a "47 percent increase" in the recyclables collected in August, as compared to the same month last year.

That meant, according to Dyster's tally, that the city saved $7,400.

Like many things the mayor reports, it may not be the whole story.

Last month's increase in recycling did result in 74 more tons of recyclables being collected. And, while this may be notable based on social benefits objectives, 77 tons, or about seven pounds more per household, means almost nothing financially.

Here's why: Modern charges the city per household for its bi-weekly pick up of recyclables. Starting January, the charge will be $1.75 per household per month.

It takes about 100 households to collect a ton of recyclables.

Modern pays the city $2.50 per ton for recyclables.

That means, it costs the city $250 per ton to earn $2.50.

With the 77 ton increase, the city earned $184.

However, there is a savings associated with recycling: Modern charges $35 per ton to dispose of refuse. If those 77 tons of increased recycling would have otherwise gone into refuse, it would have cost the city $2,700 more in dumping fees.

So, if we add $184 for 77 tons for recycling fees, and $2700 in dumping savings, the city gained $2,900 for its increased recycling efforts in August.

But to call this a savings is inaccurate since there are three new city employees hired to oversee the new trash program, costing the city more than $6,500 per month.

Prior to the new trash program being implemented, the city's recycling rate was the lowest in Western New York at an estimated four percent. The 47 percent increase last month brings the rate up to just below 6 percent, which is still about the lowest in the region.

An analysis of the 10 biggest communities in Erie and Niagara counties showed the average rate of recycling is 13 percent, according to the online publication, Investigative Post. Amherst has the best recycling rate, with a curbside pickup number of 24 percent.

The national average is 25 percent.

Mayor Paul Dyster's trash numbers don’t add up.


In addition to increases in recycling, Dyster touted the fact that Niagara Falls threw out less garbage last month, which meant more savings.

Modern's numbers showed 207 less tons of refuse picked up last month as compared to August 2013, a decrease of 8.98 percent.

Since Modern charges $6.50 per month per household for refuse pick up plus $35 per ton for refuse dumping, the 207 ton decrease in refuse meant $7,200 was saved.

However, that savings cannot be tied entirely to the increase in recycling. Other factors contributing to the decrease are that Dyster's new trash program discontinued curbside service to hundreds of city business who now, employing dumpster service, pay for their own refuse disposal.

In addition, the city's population has, if the past 40 years are an indicator, dropped by more than 800 people in the last 12 months.

The fact is that the new trash program will cost the city more in 2015 than it did during the last year of the old trash program, unless there is a tremendous increase in recycling. We are not talking about a mere 47 percent, an increase from four to six percent.

In order to come close to breaking even, when compared to the old trash program, a 700 percent increase is probably necessary.

Even then, the city would be financially behind since it cost $2.1 million to buy and deliver new totes.

Earlier this year, Dyster said his goal is to reduce garbage collections by 10 percent and increase recycling rates to 20 percent.

By cutting services to businesses, a shrinking population and a small uptick in recycling, the 10 percent dip may be obtainable.

However, the 20 percent recycling goal would require more than 10 times the 47 percent increase Dyster reported. Instead of 20 pounds of recycling put out each month, every household will have to increase to 90 pounds of recycling.

If that occurs, the city would save $31,000 per month.

However, since the Modern contract calls for a $64,260 increase in pick up charges monthly, commencing Jan. 1, if recycling goes to 20 percent, it will still cost $30,000 more per month than the old trash plan.

In order to save money, the city would have to achieve a 60 percent recycling rate - 270 pounds of recycling per month per household.

In 2015, the trash contract will cost more than $3 million, compared to the $2.8 million of recent years, when more people were served, no efforts were made to recycle, and there were no new employees to monitor recycling.

In his one-sided attempt to increase recycling, Dyster gave away the store on other aspects of the contract with Modern.

Modern is charging top dollar on pickup and dumping of refuse, and an array of other services, while accommodating Dyster on his recycling goals.

Where Dyster can mislead with statistics is when he compares savings not with past costs, but with "what would have been costs."

The savings he claimed for August are fictional and based only on comparing what is, with what could have been, not with what it was previously.

The Dyster administration inverted the sizes, making recycling totes 96 gallons and refuse totes 64 gallons, the opposite of every community in the region.






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