July 19--The city of Montgomery has reached a deal to take over the shuttered $35 million recycling center that closed last fall.
Montgomery signed an agreement Tuesday to acquire the Materials Recycling Facility and an adjacent lot from IREP for $625,000 and "other consideration," the city said in a release. IREP intends to file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case and request that the deal with the city be approved by the bankruptcy court, the release said.
Once that happens, the city intends to "find an organization capable of resuming operations" at the center -- without getting any more money from the city. City Finance Director Barry Crabb met with more than five potential operators in the past few months and plans to meet with more.
"Although it's been a long road, today marks a significant step toward bringing one of the most technologically advanced recycling facilities in the nation back online," Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said in a statement.
"We remain committed to our goal of protecting the environment, while providing a cost effective and efficient service to citizens. Our vision is to find a partner who can not only take over operations at the facility and succeed, but we want to find someone who will lead us into the future and set an example other cities can follow."
IREP opened the facility in April 2014, separating waste from recyclables and then selling the reclaimed material on the commodities market. But it couldn't make a profit.
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Plummeting oil prices hurt the price of the reclaimed materials, and some in the recycling industry questioned the quality of products that were once mixed with waste.
"None of my members can buy it because a lot of what we make are food-grade materials," Fran McPoland of the Paper Recycling Coalition told the Advertiser in November. "Can you imagine that the box of cereal you're giving to the kids has been exposed to these kinds of contaminants?
"The concept of this kind of facility is very questionable. The objective is to take material contaminated with garbage and then magically separate it out so you have some valuable recyclable material. However, some things can't be separated."
Strange said in February that the most likely plan for reopening the center would rely on two city-issued trash cans, one for garbage and one for recyclables. That would keep the recyclables separate from garbage and also eliminate the need to have workers sort out unusable materials as they come into the plant. The center would then use its high-tech systems to sort the different recyclable products.
"(IREP) misunderstood the fact that in Montgomery, Alabama, lots of things other than household garbage go into those green cans," Strange said in February.
Tuesday's statement didn't give a timetable for a potential reopening of the center.
You can see more about the current recycling options at http://www.montgomeryal.gov/live/recycling.
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