Wayne residents left holding the bag as recyclables pickup is temporarily suspended

WAYNE — Residents will lug their own empty bottles and cans to the public works yard for at least two weeks as the township remains at an impasse over a new contract with its regular hauler.

The suspension of curbside pickup was announced on the municipal website and on social media channels on Wednesday afternoon, just hours before the township’s current pact with Get-A-Can Inc., an affiliate of Paterson-based Gaeta Recycling Co., was due to expire.

Under that deal, Gaeta was paid $84,010 per month for a total of more than $3 million. The contract was initially for three years, but it was extended for 13 months at the same rate.

The expiring contract provides for collection of cardboard and paper, plus commingled glass, metal and plastic. Gaeta also picks up residents’ trash and yard waste under separate contracts that are not affected by the pickup lapse.

Mayor Christopher Vergano said officials hope to restore the important service as soon as possible.

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“In the interest of the Wayne taxpayer, the Township is doing everything possible to maintain the high level of municipal services at a fair price,” officials said in the website announcement.

Gaeta was the only company that bid for the service.

It first proposed that the township pay $211,200 per month for three years — an increase of 151.4%.

But the Township Council rejected that offer, and new bids were solicited. Gaeta again showed the only interest, and in a second proposal, it shaved $115,200 off the total cost of the contract.

The council once more turned down its proposal, and bidders were sought for a third time.

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Gaeta — still the only willing hauler — has not budged on its quoted price since then. Its proposal, which would have the township paying more than $7.4 million for three years, was rejected yet again when the council met on Monday.

Officials are now negotiating a new contract with Gaeta and other potential vendors, Vergano said.

A 1971 state law permits a municipality to award a contract without public bidding, so long as the governing body rejected bids on multiple occasions because they are “not reasonable as to price.”

Michael Portannese, the president of Gaeta, said the reasons for the proposed increase in price are inflation and the cost of doing business in a flagging economy. He said his company is having to absorb substantial hikes in health care coverage for its employees and insurance on its fleet of trucks.

When the expiring contract started in November 2018, the average price for a gallon of diesel fuel in the U.S. was $3.34. It is now $5.14, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Gaeta sent 22 trucks to the 25.1-square-mile township for pickup of recyclables each week, Portannese said.

“I lost my shirt on this contract,” Portannese said. “We were so underpriced to where we really needed to be to just break even.”

But to officials, the proposed increase in price was too exorbitant. “It comes down to greed — that’s what it comes down to,” said Councilman Jason DeStefano.

“I certainly understand that prices have gone up,” Vergano said. “But to justify the cost more than doubling — that’s very difficult for us to understand.”

If the pickup lapse goes on for two weeks, as anticipated, each household will miss one collection. The township’s recycling center at 201 Dey Road is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

Philip DeVencentis is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: devencentis@northjersey.com

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Wayne NJ recycling pickup temporarily suspended for residents