Elgin will give recycling company a break in the wake of COVID-19
The company Simple Recycling has asked all municipalities where it provides free residential pickup of clothing and household items to forego their annual rebates, and the city of Elgin gave its OK on Wednesday.
Elgin's contract had required the Ohio-based company to give the city one penny per pound of collected material. The company told city officials it suffered economic hardship due to an interruption of services from about mid-March through early June in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
City staff members and members of the sustainability commission's waste work group had recommended allowing Simple Recycling to forego the rebate, which amounted to an average $1,600 yearly for Elgin. The city council approved the move without discussion during its committee of the whole meeting Wednesday night.
Simple Recycling has asked all its municipal partners to discontinue the rebate, said Sonny Wilkins, the company's vice president of municipal relations. The company also serves Mount Prospect, Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates, Hanover Park, Villa Park, South Barrington, Barrington, Northbrook, Niles and Skokie, according to its website.
"Due to the pandemic, we've had to make difficult decisions to ensure continuation of the program in the markets where we can maintain service," Wilkins said via email. "The benefits of having use of a free program that increases the municipal diversion rate, reduces the costs to process waste, extends landfill life and more, still exists by having this program."
Wilkins said he was traveling and didn't have other information immediately available Wednesday, such as what the average municipal rebate is and how many cities in the United States are served by the company.
In February, the Elgin City Council approved renewing the contract from April 1 through March 31, 2023. In the wake of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order in March, Simple Recycling temporarily suspended its services until the week of June 8, after the start of Phase 3 of the "Restore Illinois" plan.
According to a memo to city council members written by Elgin Communications Manager Molly Gillespie, "The company has limited storage capacity and, with nonessential retail shut down, the company had nowhere to sell or distribute its secondhand items. In addition, the company wanted to limit driver exposure to household items out of an abundance of caution."
Elgin was the first town in Illinois to contract with Simple Recycling. City data shows collections were at their highest in July 2017, the first month of the program, when the company collected 68,913 pounds of materials. The rebate for the second half of 2017 was $2,156, higher than for 2018, when it was $1,781, and 2019, when it was $962.
The company collected an average 6,731 pounds per month from January through March in Elgin. When service was restored in June, the company collected 12,151 pounds.