Amid the COVID-19 pandemic Hopkinsville Solid Waste Enterprise has put the city’s recycling program on hold until life returns to normal.

HSWE General Manager Tony Sicari said he made the decision to stop the recycling program for the time being after a meeting with his staff during the third week of March. Since then, the program has been on hold.

Sicari said he made the decision due to the mills where HSWE takes the recyclable trash have temporarily shut down during the pandemic.

He added that HSWE’s recycling center is fairly small, which poses a storage problem.

“We’re not doing any sort of recycling for our commercial accounts or residential accounts and even the drop off centers,” Sicari said. “First of all, our recycling center isn’t that big that we can store all of it. So, we’re pretty much at the mercy of what (the mills) do.”

Sicari said HSWE would bring back the program as soon as possible after the pandemic subsides. He hopes to implement recycling again around June.

“This is just a temporary hold until things get back to some form of normality, but yeah, we are going to pick it back up again,” Sicari said. “Hopefully, after all this is over, it may kick up better than we’re hoping.”

When the recycling program was put on hold, Sicari said the curbside recycling program had reached a little over 800 customers and was slowly gaining more. He hopes that after the coronavirus situation is relatively back to normal that the number of customers will increase.

When Hopkinsville City Council approved the program and residents began seeing their red recycling bins, Sicari had a goal of reaching 3,500 customers. That number is roughly a third of the 10,900 total customers HSWE serves.

When the program was approved, Sicari told the council that HSWE was adamant on having the program despite the enterprise taking on a deficit in order to run the program. Sicari shared that the 3,500 goal would help HSWE break even.

However, because of the deficit the enterprise took on, Sicari said that the recycling program would run between two or three years before HSWE and the city decide to continue with it or pull the plug on it.

Due to the temporary hold on the program, Sicari said he would likely extend that trial period around three months.

“We’ll probably extend that deadline somewhat, because it wouldn’t be fair just to say ‘OK, times up, we’re going to close it down,’ because we’re going to lose probably three months on the program,” Sicari said.

The curbside recycling program officially began Feb. 1, 2019.

Sicari shared that a positive to putting the program on hold is that HSWE is not having to spend the money it normally does to run the program, preventing the enterprise from going further into that deficit.

Along with the hold on the recycling program, Sicari said the waste enterprise is seeing the effects of COVID-19 on its business.

Since the pandemic began and people are quarantining and working from home, Sicari said HSWE has seen an increase of at least 15% in residential trash, but at the same time, there’s been a substantial drop in commercial and roll off trash.

Sicari said that HSWE is looking at about $250,000 less in revenue a month than before the pandemic began.

Because of those effects, Sicari shared that HSWE has furloughed six of its employees.

“It’s really affected the commercial side of trash pickup,” Sicari said. “I think it’s going to take the enterprise probably a good four to six months to get back to normal revenues again.

“I’d love to see it come a bit earlier than that. Hopefully by June at the latest, but I don’t see us getting back to normal revenue until late summer, August, September or so. That’s what we’re looking at now.”

Because of the coronavirus, Sicari is asking customers to bag up all of their trash and to not throw loose trash in the bins without being bagged. Any extra trash should also be bagged and put next to the bins and HSWE will remove it.

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