Citing expense and cost-savings, Sherman city staff are recommending the indefinite suspension of the city’s recycling program. The recommendation to cut the program comes nearly two years after the city moved to make the program opt-in for residents.


City Council is expected to consider the future of the program when it meets at 5 p.m. Monday at Sherman City Hall.


“ Most of our curbside recycle loads are still being rejected by Waste Connections because they do not meet the required low contamination rates,” city staff said in documents for Monday’s meeting. “This costs the City excessive loading fees and ultimately the loads end up in a landfill.”


Requests for an interview with City Manager Robby Hefton were declined Friday, deferring back to the meeting documents.


The recommendation comes during a time of difficult budget talks for the city of Sherman amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In mid-April, city officials estimated that Sherman could fall about $1 million short of its budgeted sales tax revenues due to the closure of many businesses this spring due to the illness and the economic climate following it.


As a part of the upcoming budget talks, city officials previously said departments are being asked to expect a 10 percent budget decrease for the upcoming year.


In Monday’s meeting documents, city staff estimated that the city could see about $600,000 in savings during the 2020-2021 fiscal year by suspending the program. This would include $250,000 in program costs, with the remaining expense related to equipment purchases.


The decision to ultimately suspend the recycling program comes nearly two years after significant and rapid changes to the program in 2018.


In October of 2018, the city council voted to alter its recycling program to only accept cardboard and newspaper in an effort to clean up the city’s stream of recycling materials.


Due to the nature of the industry, the city’s recycling stream needs to be free of contaminants including food products and non-recyclable materials in order to be processed.


In 2018, the global recycling market shifted when China signed new laws that would require that recyclable materials be 99.5 percent clear or contaminants in order to be imported.


By comparison, some runs of Sherman’s recyclable materials saw upward of 30 percent contamination. In January, city officials said contamination has decreased but has fluctuated heavily from the single digits to nearly 20 percent.


“We encourage everyone to begin following the new rules immediately because the sooner we get the stream clean, the sooner we can assess how the program is doing and potentially add back other recyclables to the list of acceptable content,” Community and Support Services Manager Nate Strauch said in 2018.


These revisions came quickly, with the city amending its program only three weeks later to allow for the recycling of aluminum, tin and steel cans, paper and certain plastics.


In addition to increasing what could be recycled, the city made the program opt-in for residents.


As of January, the program had only 2,740 customers — down from the 12,000 it had when it was mandatory. This fell near where city officials expected numbers to fall once the program became opt-in.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.