CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — After July 1, those looking to recycle in Chesapeake will have two options: pay for a private recycling pickup service or drive their recyclable material to a drop-off center.
In a split 5-4 vote, Chesapeake City Council directed the city manager to move in that direction after a renewed effort to continue curbside recycling failed during Tuesday night’s meeting.
To continue bi-weekly curbside recycling, or to not, has been a point of contention within the city since City Manager Chris Price first identified eliminating the service as a possible way to fund pay raises for public safety employees.
Unlike other Hampton Roads cities, recycling has always been covered in Chesapeake by already existing taxes and fees within the city. A majority of City Council has rejected a proposal to charge a $22-a-month solid waste fee to continue providing curbside recycling services. Instead, they decided to do away with the service altogether.
Councilman Dwight Parker made a motion Tuesday night to again ask Price to find a way for the city to cover curbside recycling in the 2022-2023 fiscal year budget. However, it was Councilman Robert Ike’s substitute motion to ask the Price to assist citizens in obtaining subscription-based curbside recycling as well as establishing recycling centers.
“Mr. manager, you said there are lots of vendors that would get into that because it’s a much smaller market than handling an entire city,” Ike said. “Given the volatile market for recyclables, I just don’t think the city needs to be in the recycling business.”
Currently, Price estimates that eliminating curbside recycling would save the city up to $2 million in the next fiscal year by discontinuing its more than $4 million contract with Chesapeake based TFC recycling.
Councilman Don Carey, who along with council members Stephen Best, Susan Vitale and Dr. Ella Ward voted to approve Ike’s motion, said the current state of inflation weighed on his mind. Carey in December voted to approve the solid waste fee.
“I care a lot about recycling, I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Carey said. “But if you had to put recycling in the hierarchy of paying our employees or providing relief for citizens that are really struggling right now, then in my mind, recycling takes a back seat.”
However,Mayor Rick West, who along with Vice Mayor Dr. John de Triquet and council member Debbie Ritter voted in favor of Parker’s motion to keep the city in the recycling business, fears most people will just throw recyclables in the trash.
“What we are doing now, more people would be participating,” West said.
Recycling has become increasingly important in the fight against climate change in recent years. Most recently, California municipalities started collecting residents’ food waste to turn into compost in order to cutdown on greenhouse gas emissions.
However the topic of climate change didn’t come up once in council members’ discussions Tuesday night during the formal session.
West said the business community is paying attention however.
“There was a business that was looking at coming to Chesapeake and they heard that this was an issue and they called and said, ‘does Chesapeake care about recycling?’” West said. “But I am convinced that we’re going to have something in operation that will work, if not good, better.”
It’s not yet known when Price will come back with established recycling centers and guidance for residents looking to continue curbside services.