Ogden shifts to new recycling firm in response to environmental probe | News, Sports, Jobs

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The Recycled Earth recycling operation in Ogden, on Wednesday, July 8, 2020.

BRIAN WOLFER, Special to the Standard-Examiner

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Blue recycling bins and green trash bins sit on 22nd Street in Ogden, awaiting collection, on Aug. 27, 2020.

TIM VANDENACK, Standard-Examiner
















OGDEN — The City of Ogden has tapped the services of a Davis County recycler to process residential recyclables in response to news that state environmental officials are investigating the incumbent operator, Ogden-based Recycled Earth.

The change has been in effect since Nov. 3 and now Ogden officials are in the process of reviewing the city’s recycling program to adjust to the change. No one is talking about axing Ogden’s recycling program, which provides city residents with once-a-week curbside pickup of paper, plastic, tin and aluminum. But officials warn that sticking with the Layton-based Wasatch Integrated Waste Management District — which took over from Recycled Earth — could require a bump in fees for city customers or a move to pickup service just once every two weeks to trim costs.

“We think a large portion of our citizens will agree with our commitment to recycling everything we can in an environmentally appropriate manner,” said Jay Lowder, the Ogden public services director.

For now, the city has funds to cover the change, also prompted by apparent dissatisfaction with Recycled Earth. But Lowder and other department officials will return to the Ogden City Council, probably in January, with more definitive ideas on how to handle recycling going forward.

“We’re going to look at the entire operation and see what is the cheapest and best management practice we can go toward,” Lowder said.

With Recycled Earth, Lowder’s office calculates Ogden’s recycling program costs the city $228,059 per year. Sticking with Wasatch Integrated would cost $259,137 a year, factoring the hiring of a new employee to help haul recyclables the longer distance to Layton, plus a one-time cost of $392,683 on top of that to buy a needed truck.

Alternatively, hauling recyclables to the Weber County transfer station for disposal in a landfill would cost $205,185 a year, according to info city administrators provided to the Ogden City Council at a Nov. 1 work session.

Lowder didn’t provide details of Recycled Earth’s apparent issues with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, the state’s environmental regulator. He told the City Council on Nov. 1 that state officials were investigating an alleged illicit discharge from the firm’s facility into Ogden’s stormwater system.

“The investigation is continuing and won’t be done or completed for some time,” Lowder said.

A DEQ rep confirmed that a probe is underway but didn’t immediately have additional details. Recycled Earth operator David Rawson said the firm is cooperating with DEQ reps and that it was suing “the responsible party” in the matter — a customer, he said.

“Supporting the circular economy, Recycled Earth benefits the Ogden community and our environment. Recycled Earth has taken immediate measures to respond to the environmental impacts caused by one of its customers,” Rawson said in a statement. According to the suit, that customer, Beck’s Sanitation, improperly dumped “grease, petroleum hydrocarbons” and more at Recycled Earth facilities, unbeknownst to Recycled Earth.

The DEQ probe, though, wasn’t the only factor Lowder cited in seeking a move away from Recycled Earth. He also cited “serious concerns” about the share of recyclables handled by Recycled Earth that are actually recycled and not sent to the landfill.

“The administration lacks confidence that the goals of our recycling program, which is to enhance our environment, (are) being best achieved with the current recycling provider,” Lowder said. The city didn’t have a long-term contract with Recycled Earth, according to Mark Johnson, Ogden’s chief administrative officer, but only operated with the firm on a month-to-month basis.

In 2020, the city quietly suspended the its recycling program amid concerns that Recycled Earth wasn’t complying with terms of its operational permit because it would dump recyclables on its outdoor grounds before processing them, a violation of city rules. In early 2021, after 10 months, the city and the firm negotiated a fix and the arrangement with Recycled Earth continued.

‘IT WILL LOOK NORMAL’

Despite all the behind-the-scenes actions, Lowder said Ogden’s recycling customers shouldn’t notice any change. What’s more, recyclables will still be recycled, now by Wasatch Integrated, a quasi-governmental unit that processes waste from most of Morgan and Davis counties.

“It will look normal to the residents,” Lowder said. Ogden residents put recyclables in blue bins and place the containers in the curbs in front of their homes for weekly pickup by city haulers.

That said, change could be in the offing after the Ogden City Council takes up the matter, presumably next January when Lowder and administrative officials return with longer-term options.

The expected cost increase in working with Wasatch Integrated stems in part from the longer distance Ogden haulers will have to travel to bring recyclables to the Davis County entity’s Layton facility instead of Recycled Earth’s Ogden operation. That will boost fuel costs and another driver would potentially have to be hired to help with the new arrangement. Moreover, the city would need another truck to haul recyclables, a big one-time cost.

One proposal put forward by Lowder to city officials calls for hikes in the fees residents pay the city on their utility bills to offset to higher recycling costs. Alternatively, the city could shift to picking up recyclables just once every two weeks to keep costs in check.



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