CITY WATCH: Is it time to automate Palm Coast’s trash pickup? City looks at options

With international changes in the recycling market and new government regulations, Palm Coast is preparing for a new solid waste transport contract. However, the city wants citizens to contribute to what this treaty should look like. A city survey on the solid waste contract has so far received around 9,000 responses and will be completed on March 31.

As of 2017, city residents have paid $ 20.36 every month for twice-weekly garbage collection and once-weekly recycling of trash, garden waste, and white goods / bulk pickup, Palm Coast director of civic engagement, Cynthia Schweers, said during a city tour in Palm Coast Virtual City Hall.

The city will have three general options for its future contract, said Allison Trulock, general manager of solid waste at consulting firm NewGen: maintaining the current manual collection system, where residents provide their own waste bins that are picked up and disposed of on a truck by collection personnel; Move to a semi-automated system where the city provides wheeled rubbish bins that are positioned by garbage collection personnel but lifted with a machine dump arm and dumped into the truck; or automated collection where the trucks are manned by only one driver and the trucks pick up and empty city-provided bins.

With a semi-automated or automated collection, the city would provide waste bins.

The city’s process review is in response to global shifts in the value of recycling, Trulock said.

“A lot has changed in the past year,” she said.

China, which used to buy nearly half of US recycling exports, changed its regulations from the summer of 2018 and stopped accepting US recycling. This caused the recycling market to be oversupplied in other areas, driving down prices and revenues, Trulock said.

“Since early 2018, the industry has had some real challenges keeping these recycling programs funded,” she said. “The good news is that in 2020 these prices started to recover.”

One result is a new state law mandating municipalities’ contracts with freight forwarders to address potentially costly contamination – what happens when the wrong items end up in trash bins. On site, Trulock said, a strategy to prevent and reduce contamination could result in the carrier leaving notices on residents’ recycling bins if they are contaminated.

“This can make the program more cost-effective if we can minimize contamination,” she said.

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