Fargo mayor says city’s recycling program isn’t profitable

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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) Fargo's mayor says the city is losing money on its curbside recycling program.

Two years ago Fargo residents were introduced to curbside recycling.

For a monthly charge of $3, residents who signed up got a 96 gallon bin and their recyclables were picked up every two weeks.

“We're concerned in time that recycling cost could go up unless the market opens up,” Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said.

Mayor Mahoney is proposing a $1 increase to the monthly fee bringing it up for $4 acknowledging the recycling program is operating at a loss.

“For all different programs that we have in our city we try to make sure utilities pay for themselves,” Mahoney said.

Fargo spent $1.2 million two years ago on 25,000 blue recycling bins with the goal that they’d pay for themselves in five years through monthly fees.

We asked the mayor if the city is still on track with that plan.

“You always have to balance cost versus benefit and we will continue to do that on a yearly basis and for now we feel it's been a very successful program, and we'll support it,” Mahoney said. “Again, unless the citizens want to do something different then that's where we'll go.”

Mahoney is proposing an estimated $65,000 increase for next year’s recycling budget, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.

A document we obtained dated 2016 outlined Fargo’s plan to continue buying more recycling bins, after the initial $1.2 million purchase, at a price of $50,000 a year for the next five years in anticipation of growth.

“The residents of the city of Fargo have really embraced the all in one recycling program,” Jen Pickett, who’s the Fargo Recycling Coordinator, said. “We have an 85 to 90 percent participating rate for single family homes in the city of Fargo.”

Through an open records requests, we learned 21,355 homes participated in curbside recycling in 2018.

For Fargo residents wanting to comment on the city’s proposed budget, including the recycling program, a public hearing is scheduled for September 9.