A new business is looking to pick up where Sherman’s curbside recycling program left off.
Representatives with Recyclops, a recycling provider, recently announced plans to enter into the Sherman market and provide recycling services for a fee. This comes about a week after the city effectively suspended its curbside recycling program amid ongoing budget concerns and other issues with the existing program.
"We’ve had a great deal of interest from people in Sherman, so it is something we are looking at," Recyclops CEO Ryan Smith said Monday. "Many communities around Texas and the country that want to recycle but lack the capability, so that is our specialty."
Currently, Recyclops offers recycling to communities in Texas, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma and Idaho. Under its business model, the recycler hires private contractors to collect recyclable materials left out by clients using pick-up trucks rather than larger dump trucks.
By using the smaller vehicles, Smith said Recyclops is able to be more fuel efficient while also reducing the operation’s carbon footprint. Additionally, the trucks do not compact the material, which can lead to contaminants being spread through an entire load.
Smith said that Recyclops has been looking for communities to serve near the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. On its website, the provider also lists Kaufman and Forney as communities it serves, with plans to start service in Beaumont and Terrell, among other communities.
"Sherman was one of the cities that we saw didn’t have recycling," Smith said. "Our very person who signed up with us for recycling was the 15th, a week ago."
Derek Michaelis, representing Recyclops said he has talked with the city about providing service, and Sherman city officials expressed no concern aside from the service not using the trash carts for recycling.
Sherman Community and Support Services Manager Nate Strauch confirmed that there have been talks between the city and the company about providing more widespread service, but the city does not plan to do so at this time. Strauch said the city has no experience with the company and was not interested in commenting at this time.
The move by Recyclops comes as the city is winding down its recycling efforts, at least temporarily. In early June, the city moved to suspend its recycling program amid ongoing budget concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the relative ineffectiveness of the existing program.
In lieu of curbside recycling, the city has opened a recycling center at its waste collection site to allow residents to bring in their own pre-sorted recyclables. In its first week, Strauch said the site has seen use by the community.
City officials said that many of the loads from Sherman were not ultimately recycled due to contamination from non-recyclable materials. Instead, many of these loads found there way to the landfill at a higher cost to the city than through its traditional waste disposal programs.
Issues with contamination became a worldwide issue in the recycling industry about two years ago when China, a major importer of recycled materials, changed the amount of contaminated material it would accept. At its lowest, the country would only allow less than 2 percent contaminants for each load it accepted.
Under its operations, Smith said Recyclops typically has about five percent contamination. He attributed this to the fees for the service making it so that the majority of the customers are people who are already interested in recycling.
Smith attributed this change in part to the U.S being "lazy with how we handled material.
Recycling is primarily used for feed stock for manufacturing. You take it to a place that needs a lot of boxes and they use it to manufacture boxes. China was one of those places were recycling was taking place."
Smith said the country issued ultimatums related to contamination before it decided to put the stiff restrictions in place. With these changes, recycling has shifted to some degree, and more domestic providers are accepting material.
However, the model is no longer as lucrative as it once was for recyclers.
"When this happened many people who did recycle were unable to because instead of being paid to recycle we now needed to pay to recycle," Smith said.
Despite speaking in favor of the service, Austin College Professor Peter Schulze said there are some issues that still need to be addressed before recycling can return to Sherman. He noted that Recyclops requires at least 150 active customers before it will enter a region.
As of Monday, Smith said about 20 had signed up in the first week. Given the speed, he anticipated it could be July or August before it has the numbers it needs for Sherman.
Schulze also expressed some concern about the bags that will be used by Recyclops. In order to ensure these materials are recycled, he said there needs to be a way to distinguish recyclables from other forms of municipal trash.
At the same time, he said he was unsure how this would affect the city returning to curbside recycling. While the success of Recyclops in Sherman may show a demand for the services, he noted that the city could argue that the provider’s services are enough to meet Sherman’s needs.
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at email@example.com.