HAMMOND | Hammond is moving its recycling program from a division of the Department of Public Works to a private contractor.
The city entered a 10-year agreement with Republic Services of Indiana, and will change the recycling program to a one-bin system starting July 1.
The one bin will allow residents to use a wheeled trash tote left in the alley for all recyclables, eliminating the need for sorting. Any bins from the old recycling program can be returned to the city, or residents may keep them.
Robert Lendi, former works board president, said the contract, "will save Hammond more than $400,000 per year. The new approach will dramatically increase the amount of participation, which may result in even larger savings."
Board member Stan Dostatni said the new contract will cost the city about $1.1 million annually, but if it increases recycling participation, the amount the city pays could go down.
If the city can send additional tons through recycling instead of the dump, it can receive additional discounts.
"Right now, we have about 27 percent participation in the recycling program," Dostatni said. "We're hoping to get to about 50 percent of residents using the new recycling program."
The city employees currently working in recycling will be reassigned to other positions within public works.
Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said he's not in favor of contracting services to the private sector, but the recycling program was a unique opportunity.
"Our present approach is not efficient, and participation is poor," McDermott said. "The open bins are cumbersome to use, especially for our senior citizens, and create problems during wet or windy weather.
"With the onset of high-speed sorting facilities, the private sector is able to handle recycling in a dramatically more efficient and cost-effective manner than we can do in-house."
McDermott added the decision to privatize recycling has been discussed for more than year, since the city consolidated the parks, streets, sanitation and recycling programs into one department.
The city will partner with Lake County Solid Waste Management District to start an education campaign within the coming weeks.
"We want this program to be a success from the moment it begins," McDermott said, "and to do so we need to make sure that our residents are aware of the change."