Letter to the editor: What happened to the Portage County recycling contract?

Lyndsey Brennan/The Portager

Editor’s note: The Portager publishes letters to the editor from the community. The opinions expressed are not published because they necessarily reflect those of the publication but because we feel they contribute meaningfully to the local discourse on matters of public interest.

The Kent Environmental Council (KEC) is dismayed about the recent vote by Kent City Council to back out of our commitment to and relationship with the Portage County Solid Waste Management District (the recycling center).

Eighteen months ago, at their Nov. 3, 2021, Committee of the Whole meeting, the city asked the recycling center for an ongoing contract, which the agency agreed to. We see no record of Kent City Council voting to cancel this contract, so we don’t understand how the existing contract could have been ignored in the bidding process. This gave the private haulers an advantage of bidding against a known contract when our partner agency was constrained to honor agreements made with the city.

What also wasn’t considered in the bidding process was a comparison of what materials each hauler will actually recycle and how that information will be audited. We want our recycling contractor to care as much about keeping things out of the landfill as we do when we separate our trash from our recycling. With the recycling center, we have enjoyed local control and accountability. The citizens of Kent care enough about recycling to make that a priority.

Kent Environmental Council started the first recycling program in 1970, then entrusted it to the City of Kent after they got a grant for curbside pickup. The city eventually helped to create the recycling center, a public entity with the core mission of keeping things out of the landfill. They’ve done a fantastic job (e.g. finding a market for glass when other local agencies didn’t, adding recycling services for hazardous waste, including batteries). With the solid waste management district, city residents have been able to talk personally with the director regarding service concerns. The recycling center also provides 11 good-paying and meaningful jobs.

We are very concerned that the City of Kent now turning its back puts the future of the recycling center in jeopardy. This will put us all at the mercy of the private haulers who are profit-motivated and unaccountable. Please note that Republic is already the target of a class action lawsuit that claims they have a practice of unlawfully raising prices and fuel recovery fees.

On Wednesday, May 17, Kent City Council will have the opportunity to reconsider the vote of May 3. We urge Kent residents to join us in our plea to reaffirm our ongoing relationship with the recycling center by renewing their contract and developing a policy that prevents this from happening in the future.

Renée Ruchotzke, President, Kent Environmental Council

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