City Council seeks solutions from Emterra for recycling pick-up delays

FLUSHING — Flushing City officials are pressing Emterra Environmental USA to come up with a solution to recent delays with recycling pick-up in the city.

On April 30, Emterra notified the city that it would be cancelling its curbside pick-up of recyclable items on May 3 and May 4. Emterra attributed the suspension of service to COVID-19 quarantines of staff and related worker shortages, saying that it simply did not have the manpower to handle recycling.

As a result, Flushing residents have been without curbside recycling for the past two weeks. Regular garbage pick-up service, however, has continued during that time frame.

To help alleviate the recycling burden on residents, the city worked with Emterra to bring a temporary dumpster to the Bella Birches rental hall parking lot on April 30. Although the dumpster was helpful for residents who brought their recyclables, Flushing City Manager Clarence Goodlein said that it quickly became packed last Monday morning and overflowed when Emterra came to take the garbage.

After Emterra came to clean up the excess trash that had spilled onto the Bella Birches parking lot, the city requested for Emterra to send out another dumpster and allowed residents to bring their recyclables last Monday and Tuesday morning.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Joseph Karlichek said that Emterra needs to be “motivated” to offer the city a better solution if curbside recycling can’t resume next week.

“We felt like we were managing the problem for Emterra,” Karlichek said. “The problem grew to a significant extent when the back parking lot (at Bella Birches) was left a disaster—not because of our citizens, as Emterra implied to us—but because of poor service related to exchange of the dumpsters.

“If Emterra cannot provide recycling services, they must provide dumpsters for May 17 and 18 and direct us to where those dumpsters may be,” he added. “They need to provide recycling services at a minimum to this city if they can’t provide curbside recycling.”

Councilman Dan Fralick suggested that the city should request five or more dumpsters for next week if Emterra can’t resume curbside service, while Councilman Eric Johnson said that the city should attempt to recoup costs from Emterra for the suspension of recycling pick-up.

“I’m willing to give (Emterra) a pass this one time for unforeseen circumstances, but if this continues, we need to hit them where it hurts: their pocketbook,” Johnson said.

City Attorney Matt McKone told the council that Emterra’s inability to pick up recycling could be considered a breach of contract and that the city could potentially recover costs related to the delay in recycling pick-up.

Flushing City Council then directed McKone to submit a letter to Emterra representatives to notify them about a breach of contract and instruct them that they are “obligated to provide solutions relative to recycling pickup.”

As of Monday’s meeting, Goodlein said that the city hasn’t received a guarantee from Emterra that recycling will resume on May 17.

Flushing Township, which was also impacted by Emterra’s cancellation of curbside recycling, had two temporary dumpsters placed in the parking lot of Flushing Township Hall for residents who wished to bring their recycling items on Monday and Tuesday. Flushing Township Supervisor Fred Thorsby said that Emterra has not informed him if recycling will resume on May 17, adding that the township will likely continue offering temporary dumpsters until the service is restored.