An city audit of Waste Management never materialized after first being discussed in August 2015, and Mayor Hillary Schieve and City Coucilmembers expressed frustration at today’s council meeting about why the audit never happened.
Councilman Paul McKenzie said today that he still wanted an update on Waste Management’s practices.
“We started the RFP process (in December) when we brought our new auditor on, and then she left and then there was some delay,” said City Manager Andrew Clinger.
Clinger said an agreement for the audit of the waste company was signed today.
Schieve was frustrated over the delay.
“Do you mean to tell me that we asked for this audit in December and were told it would be done back in March?” she asked. “This is embarrassing. Honestly, I am embarrassed by this. This council was told we were in the process of this audit.”
“I don’t know that it was ever asked for by council,” Clinger said. “It was something I initiated. There definitely has been some delay in getting this out, and for that I apologize.”
Concerns have arisen over how much Waste Management charges customers, whether the city is getting accurate franchise fees, how much of its recycling ends up in landfill and construction of a recycling center.
“This is becoming a very major thorn in my side, the issues we have with Waste Management,” McKenzie said. “We have to find a solution to them, sooner rather than later.”
CORRECTION (5/27/2016): Waste Management wrote to dispute a previously reported figure of nearly 30 percent of recyclables being sent to landfill. According to spokesman Paul Rosynsky, this is incorrect. We did request a correct figure of how much recyclable material is sent to landfill, as a Waste Management spokesperson stated in 2015 that recyclables that are “contaminated” are “diverted out of the recycling stream.”
Waste Management’s Sarah Polito told us on March 22, 2016 that “27.7 percent of the materials we collected were not recyclable, either because they weren’t the approved recyclables contained in the Franchise Agreement or the paper and cardboard had been spoiled by liquids or food.”
At the same time, Waste Management’s Greg Martinelli, when asked how much recycling material ends up in landfill, told the Washoe Board of County commissioners that, “We have contaminated recycling loads that are essentially worthless.” No further specifics were provided.
But here are excerpts of what Rosynsky wrote to us today and yesterday:
The statement you are using to make this erroneous conclusion is based on the amount of contamination found, on average, in the recyclable materials we collect in Reno. In other words, nearly 30 percent of all the materials collected in the recycling cart is not a recyclable material. That material, which is not recyclable, is disposed in the landfill.
“Furthermore, that statement is three months old and no longer accurate thanks to a successful education campaign Waste Management introduced in Reno. We now see only about 17 percent contamination in the recyclables. Meaning, 17 percent of all the materials we collect in the recycling carts is not a recyclable material and is sent to the landfill.
All the materials we collect from recycling carts and bins are sorted. The materials are taken to a material recovery facility where a combination of workers and state-of-the-art machines separate recyclable materials into like products such as plastics, glass, cardboard and paper. This process also separates the trash customers mistakenly place in their recycling carts and bins.
However, this technology cannot work if residents and businesses continue to place trash into recycling carts and bins. Too much trash in the recycling waste stream would overload the system. That is why we say “one bad apple spoils the bunch.” In addition, it is true that liquids and food in the recycling cart could render paper or cardboard unrecyclable.
What we are trying to convey is that out of all the recyclable material we collect in Reno, 30 percent is trash. Customers are placing trash in their recyclable carts and bins. However … that percentage has now been reduced to 17 percent.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.