UPDATE Dec. 14, 2021: Chesapeake City Council voted Tuesday night to eliminate curbside recycling starting July 1, 2022.
CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — June 30, 2022 could be the last day a truck comes curbside to pick up recycling in Chesapeake if City Council approves a plan Tuesday night that’s been put forward by the city manager.
City Manager Chris Price’s proposal to cut the service was born out of a need to implement the recommended amendments to the city’s compensation plan for sworn public safety employees. The same proposal also calls for possible increases in taxes and/or fees, a decrease in the amount of money going toward capital improvements and the discontinuance of sending some surplus money to schools.
Putting the pay plan into effect as fast as possible became a priority for City Council once Virginia Beach started incentivizing law enforcement officers to leave neighboring cities and join their department. Staffing shortages have plagued many cities across the county. Chesapeake already instituted a a $5,000 retention bonus in order to try and keep its officers and sheriff’s deputies.
The hope is that increasing pay and incentives for public safety employees helps the city stay competitive as the labor market continues to struggle.
However, funding the pay plan with cuts was only one of Price’s proposals. The owner of the recycling company who works with the city feels the others still should be reconsidered.
In November, City Council voted against implementing a $22-a-month solid waste fee to help offset costs of the pay plan, with some council members calling the fee “regressive” as all homes wouldn’t be impacted equally.
Councilman Stephen Best said a large home producing a large amount of trash would be paying the same amount a single person household.
He motioned to move forward with Price looking again at options that wouldn’t include new taxes and fees. He was joined by council members Robert Ike, Debbie Ritter, Susan Vitale and Dr. Ella Ward in voting in favor.
“I guess I ask if you’re not willing to raise a fee for trash, are you really going to be willing to raise a fee for something else? You say you are but we heard that before,” Mayor Rick West said in voting in opposition.
On Tuesday’s agenda, Price estimates that eliminating curbside recycling would save the city up to $2 million in the nearly $13.1 million needed for the plan in the next fiscal year.
Michael Benedetto, owner and president of TFC Recycling which has the contract with the city, said eliminating the service will likely cost a lot more in the long run.
“Recycling is one of those things that people are very passionate about,” Benedetto said. “Doing our job to make sure that we are not polluting the environment and we are leaving our children a better place than we came in.”
Benedetto tells 10 On Your Side that the actual contract with the city is a little more than $4 million a year. He said losing the contract wouldn’t put him out of business as the TFC also does curbside recycling for Virginia Beach, Suffolk and Nags Head as well as several Virginia Peninsula municipalities.
But it would hurt.
“It would be very detrimental to us. There would be people that unfortunately lose jobs and there would be material not end up being recycling but end up going to a landfill,” Benedetto said.
He estimated 20 to 25 people may lose their jobs.
Benedetto pushed back on the suggestion from Councilwoman Susan Vitale that the city consider looking into recycling drop-off locations instead of curbside service. He said it creates disparities as it reserves recycling mostly to those close to a center and those who have transportation.
“It doesn’t work and the costs go through the roof when you have drop off centers,” Benedetto said.
Instead, he suggested the city invest money in recycling education in order to possibly save money on the yearly contract.
“If people put the wrong items in the bin, it does drive up our costs,” Benedetto said. “Twenty-five percent of what we collect doesn’t belong in the bins. The city doesn’t pay to collect it, the city doesn’t pay to dispose of it.”
Benedetto said TFC has offered up $100,000 to the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission to increase recycling education. He said 95% of what they collect actually is recycled.
Benedetto plans to address City Council ahead of their vote Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m.
“I hope residents are communicating to City Council that they want to service and think its valuable, they think its good for the environment. It’s what they want and they are willing to pay for it,” Benedetto said.