Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 20, 2014

Curbside recycling program on hold

Operational issues at Kokomo Recycling delay start of city's curbside recycling program

By Martin Slagter Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — The city of Kokomo’s curbside recycling program won’t start in April as planned because Kokomo Recycling has not been able to overcome operational problems nor make progress on installing a materials recovery facility.

The program might not be up and running until August, according to Kokomo Recycling Owner JD Mohr. Mohr approached the Howard County Recycling District Board last week about amending the contract Kokomo Recycling currently has with the district.

Kokomo Recycling picks up the large recycling bins across Howard County. The board agrees to increase the pull fees for each bin from $100 to $135, giving Kokomo Recycling the cash flow it needs to move forward with a sorting facility. The increase is contingent on a three-year contract extension that will allow the recycling district to lock in at a flat rate in the long term.

The board also agreed to retroactively pay the processing fee for recyclable materials collected by Kokomo Recycling for January and February at $4,700, under the condition that Kokomo Recycling have scales installed within 60 days so that recyclables can begin to be tracked at the facility.

Mohr’s North Market Street facility has been hampered over the past couple of months by an increased volume of recyclables, mechanical failures and the inability to weigh materials because scales have not yet been installed due to weather constraints.

“We’ve had to bring additional staff on and with that volume, more mechanical failures,” Mohr explained to the board. “Our direct costs are exceeding our revenue from the contract. Operationally we’re running at a deficit because we can’t capitalize on the material.”

Despite the setback, Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said the city is still committed to implementing the curbside recycling program in 2014.

“We’re looking at probably a few months down the road,” he said. “If Kokomo Recycling’s problems aren’t resolved soon, we’ll look at other options, and we’ve kept those options open.”

Kokomo Recycling, which began processing recyclables for Howard County in 2009 as Apex, has provided the service to the recycling district without an increase in pull fees. Mohr approached the board about increasing that fee to $125 per pull last year but was denied. The current contract with Kokomo Recycling expires in August.

“The increase [in pulling fees] is mainly so that we don’t bleed,” Mohr said. “We still have the common goal of putting the [materials recovery facility] in. We also have some ideas to retool the program with some front loading containers to stabilize the expense. We want to find a workable solution to sustain that cost.”

Before the city can begin its curbside recycling program, Kokomo Recycling must find a location to build its materials recovery facility.

Mohr said he is looking at a couple of locations where trucks can tip the recycled materials. First Farmers Bank & Trust, however, has not yet approved a loan, expressing concerns about the businesses’ financial state.

“The loan was neither approved or denied,” he said. “They just said by running all the numbers, you already have a cash flow problem that you need to address.”

In the meantime, Mohr has been sending recyclable materials to Wasteway Group in Elkhart, where they are being processed for a fee until a material recovery facility can be constructed.

Goodnight said the city will meet within the next month to determine what progress is being made in bringing a material recovery facility to Kokomo.

“We still like the idea of having the sorting facility here and the jobs and [local] investment,” he said. “We still hope that will be the case. If not, we still need to proceed.”

Martin Slagter can be reached at 765-454-8570, martin.slagter@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @slagterm.