The Mitchell Administration and the folks at ABC Disposal are in full spin mode in an effort to win the hearts and minds of the citizenry, as the debate over the future of recyclable collections drags on. The one certainty here is that whatever the outcome, it is going to cost the taxpayers more money.

ABC says the shrinking world market for recyclables makes it impossible to fulfill the terms of its contract with the city, and is asking a judge to allow it to walk away from the deal unless the city is willing to renegotiate.

ABC Disposal Service, Inc./Facebook
ABC Disposal Service, Inc./Facebook

The Administration says a deal is a deal and, in the best interest of taxpayers, it will not agree to pay ABC anything more than what was agreed to in the contract. Mitchell wants the courts to force ABC to honor the contract.

In the meantime, ABC is refusing to pick up recycling carts that are in violation of the recycling rules, and the Administration is following trash trucks around the city and posting Facebook videos in an effort to win public support for its argument.

There is no doubt that the recycling market changed suddenly and that companies like ABC are incurring sharp increases in their cost of doing business as a result.

But a deal is a deal.

On the other hand, ABC is a local company, and if it can prove that the impact of these changes are threatening its very existence, the Administration should be open to discuss ways to help. After all, we hand out TIF agreements to companies looking to relocate or expand, don't we?

Should Mitchell need to negotiate with a new trash vendor, it would be on terms dictated by today's realities and not what was true five years ago when the deal was inked with ABC. And that means it would be more costly for taxpayers.

It could also greatly impact other aspects of the process, including bulky item pickups which are currently free to city residents. Other communities such as Fall River charge a fee for that service.

ABC's Mike Camara tells me the company could not sustain the loss of New Bedford's business, nor could it survive much more than a year under the existing circumstances. ABC is developing a new recycling-related business in Rochester which would become the company's primary focus, should it be granted permission by the courts to walk away from its contract with New Bedford.

It could be that ABC is ginning up a crisis to allow it to break its deal with New Bedford in order to pursue this new venture. I can't say for certain.

Whatever the outcome of all of this, taxpayers will shell out more money. All of this underscores the need for city officials to begin the long-range planning process now for how trash will be disposed of once the landfill reaches capacity, and the bottom falls completely out of the recyclables market. By the way, hauling our trash by truck or by train to some far off community is not always going to be an option, either.

That day is coming. Will we be ready for it?

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

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