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John White moves recyling to a conveyor belt for it to be searched for contaminating items such as liquids and glass at the Sanitation Department Friday, April 28, 2017 in Cheyenne. Wyoming Tribune Eagle/file

CHEYENNE – The City of Cheyenne and WYCO Recycling, the city’s only major recycling facility, have “mutually agreed” to terminate a recycling services contract, according to city officials.

However, city solid waste customers will see no change to their pick-up service, according to Dennis Pino, Cheyenne’s transfer station manager.

“Nothing will change at all,” Pino said. “We are still picking up materials right now and shipping it to a different place.”

Waste Management in Denver has agreed to accept the city’s recycling for the time being, he said.

WYCO was taken over recently by Gallegos Services-Wyoming LLC, according to Vicki Nemecek, the city’s public works director. But Nemecek said the $80 tipping fee – what the city pays per ton of waste it takes to WYCO for sorting and distribution – “wasn’t covering their cost to actually recycle.”

“You can’t be in business if you’re not in the business of making a profit,” she said.

Cheyenne City Council members in March approved a contract modification with WYCO, increasing the tipping fee to $80 per ton, with a $20,000 minimum per month and $400,000-per-year cap. Previously, the fee was set at $40 per ton, with a minimum of $10,000 per month and a $200,000 annual cap.

Then-WYCO owner Brian Heuer told council members at the time that Cheyenne would likely lose its primary recycling option if the council didn’t approve the increase.

An attempt Friday to contact WYCO officials for comment was unsuccessful.

Nemecek said plans call for the city to issue a “request for proposals,” a process that solicits companies to submit bids for a service. The process to choose a new contractor will likely take a couple of months.

“That contractor may be WYCO under a different type of contract; we’re not sure,” Nemecek said. “It could be someone else.”

Something that might change in a new contract, Pino said, is what items a contractor will or will not accept.

Those who live in the Cheyenne area but do not have city recycling services can take recyclable items to the Felix Pino Transfer Station, located at 220 N. College Drive in Cheyenne, from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

”We do charge a fee, but we’re making sure that material is also making it to market,” Pino said.

Individuals who wish to use the service can take bagged recyclables – up to a 35-gallon bag – at a rate of 65 cents per bag. Bagged items will need to be opened and emptied by the customer to be accepted. Once plastic bags are emptied, they will be discarded, as they are not a recyclable product.

The plastic bag is used to transport recyclable items to the transfer station. A dumpster is available at the transfer station for these discarded plastic bags.

Larger quantities are also accepted at the transfer station. Individuals can recycle up to three cubic yards of recyclable items at a rate of $6.95, while a $21-per-ton rate applies.

Three cubic yards is comparable to a full-size pickup truck evenly filled to the top of the pickup bed.

Recyclable items include: newspapers, magazines, phone books and catalogs; brown paper bags; cardboard; No. 1 and 2 plastics only – no plastic bags of any kind; steel cans, aluminum cans, foil and pie tins; junk mail and office pack.

Residents should rinse all food and other residue from containers.

Examples of No. 1 plastics are: soft drink/fruit juice/water bottles, all without lids. Examples of No. 2 plastics are: milk jugs, cleaning/laundry detergent/shampoo/shower product containers, all without lids. Look for the recycle logo with 1 or 2 in the middle.

Items that can’t be recycled are: plastic bags of any kind, glass, plastic lids, styrofoam, waxed food/drink cartons, clothes, shoes, blankets, diapers, needles, shredded paper, paper plates, paper cups, plasticware, plastic straws, hoses, electronics and tarps.

Following the rules of recycling is important, Pino said. In 2018, the city had a contamination rate of more than 30%. Out of 3,650 tons of recyclables collected last year, 1,150 tons had to be sent to the landfill due to contaminated and unacceptable items.

“What I’ve seen a lot of are plastic bags,” Pino said. “We’ve got to get those plastic bags out of the recycle stream. That’s our biggest contaminant right now.”

China, long the world’s largest destination for paper, plastic and other recyclables, began import restrictions in January 2018, according to the Associated Press. Global scrap prices plummeted as a result, prompting waste-hauling companies to pass the cost of sorting and baling recyclables on to government entities. That also forced some communities to scale back or suspend curbside recycling programs.

But officials here appear committed to continue the program as it now stands.

“Recycle markets are so low right now,” Pino said. “It’s really tough for a small business to survive. We don’t want it to go away, so we’re doing the best we can.”

Steve Knight is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3182 or sknight@wyomingnews.com.

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