Residents shared their concerns with Athens City Council about the future of Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) —  In a packed meeting, Athens residents told the City Council it’s running out of time to save Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers.

Benjamin Shonk, an organic processor at AHRC, said the nonprofit’s future looks bleak.

“I was informed a few months ago the financial situation at the Athens-Hocking Recycling Center was not so promising,” he said. “We had to cut my full-time organic processing job into a part-time position.”

The city did not renew its garbage collection contract with AHRC in November, instead opting to go with Cincinnati-based Rumpke Waste and Recycling because it was significantly cheaper.

With the loss of Athens as a client, AHRC is expected to make some tough financial decisions next month. 

Athens City Hall as seen from the other side of the street
A financial report provided by AHRC to the City Council showed that in May, the nonprofit would have to cut employees and sell off equipment to stay afloat.

Some residents are calling for the city to join a Council of Governments focused on solid waste collection.

The COG would absorb AHRC and make garbage collection a government operation.

This proposed COG would include Athens, Nelsonville, Amesville, Logan, Athens County and the Athens-Hocking Solid Waste District.

Shonk, an Ohio University graduate, said he decided to stay in Athens because of the city’s sustainability goals.

“I really saw a future in Athens for my family as well as other families,” he said. “Without the Athens-Hocking Recycling Center, the future is bleak.”

Other residents voiced their fears of Rumpke’s operation and its potential monopolization in the region.

Sean White, co-owner of Little Fish Brewing Co., said he believes Rumpke does not hold the same values as the city.

“I’m just scared about this going into an impersonal nature that doesn’t really reflect the view of what a lot of people here think Athens is about,” he said.

Athens resident Barb Campagnola said going with the COG would help keep the city in line with its values supporting local business.

“I don’t live here because of corporate America,” she said. “I live here because we are local.”

Other residents added they would gladly pay more for AHRC’s service over Rumpke.

Councilmember Alan Swank told WOUB he supports a COG but “doesn’t understand the hatred for Rumpke and devotion to AHRC.”

“I don’t want anyone to lose their job,” he said. “But as a councilperson, when it came time to look at the original contracts, there was a $2 million difference.”

Swank said the difference was too much to justify sticking with AHRC.

He believes that the city should go ahead and join the COG but keep its contract with Rumpke until it expires in 2027. The COG could then bid to become the city’s trash provider, he said.

However, given its financial outlook, it’s unclear whether ARHC will make it through the year.

“We are stuck with the emotional situation of how do we save a business,” Swank said.

Council President Sam Crowl said the COG will be discussed at next week’s City Council meeting.