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Editorial: Omaha leaders must negotiate a practical solution on recycling

Editorial: Omaha leaders must negotiate a practical solution on recycling

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New trash and recycling carts at a city lot.

Municipal government seldom involves high-flying ideological issues. Instead, the job of city leaders generally means the detailed scrutiny of practical, nuts-and-bolts matters has direct effect on residents. And when those leaders initially fail to reach agreement on the big issues, they have a duty to hash out the details and reach consensus on how the community can move forward.

That’s what Omaha officials must do now in the wake of their impasse this week over the next recycling contract.

Recycling is popular among Omahans, and rightly so. It makes great sense to strive to reuse paper, plastic and aluminum when possible and reduce the heavy volume of items pouring into the landfill. At the same time, global market conditions for recyclables have changed greatly in recent years, leading to higher costs for local government.

These conditions have complicated Omaha’s deliberations over the city’s next recycling contract. The current one ends Dec. 31. On Tuesday, the City Council voted 4-3 to reject the proposal from Mayor Jean Stothert for a 10-year, $2.28 million contract with the low bidder, NebraskaLand Recycling. Council members voting “no” expressed uncertainty about whether the company has adequate capacity to handle the needed volume. Council members made clear their preference for a contract shorter than 10 years.

Omaha leaders now face several options. The Mayor’s Office could put forward a new contract with NebraskaLand or one of the other bidders. The city could pursue a temporary solution with its new trash hauler, FCC Environmental Services.

Given the clear sentiment on the City Council, a five-year contract seems the most practical approach.

Omaha leaders often deal with complex, nuts-and-bolts issues. This recycling matter is a classic example. Now they must pursue serious negotiations and get the job done.

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