Cobb BOC approves 5-year recycling contract with WestRock

A recycle symbol with three arrows forming a circle along with a logo "Reduce Reuse Recycle"

by Caleb Groves

At Tuesday’s regular meeting, the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved a five-year recycling contract for the county.

Waste Management sent a letter on Dec. 1, 2023, for contract termination with the subcontractor, WestRock CP LLC, on June 5, 2024. To create a seamless recycling contract transition, Cobb decided to renew a five-year recycling service contract with WestRock independently from Waste Management.

“They (WestRock) actually provided a proposal for operating the facility for a short term, three to five years, if the county was agreeable to that,” Cobb Director of Sustainability, Waste and Beautification Jonathan Jenkins said.

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After the BOC work session earlier that day, the commissioners decided to remove the item from the consent agenda to discuss during the regular meeting.

During the meeting, Keli Gambrill was concerned that WestRock was given the contract without a formal request for proposal (RFP) through the county.

“We have gone and created up to a five-year contract without any bid process, without any other individual or entity being able to submit a bid,” Gambrill said.

This contract is meant to be a bandage for the continuity and continued service of recycling, rather than a permanent fix, Commissioner Jerica Richardson said.

To address the way the county went about the contract, Cobb County Manager Dr. Jackie McMorris said the county frequently utilizes sole-source contracts. Cobb is doing so in this instance because, in order to renew the contract with Waste Management, it would have taken them two years to create a functioning recycling operation, so the county decided to contract WestRock for the time being.

“What makes this unique is you can’t remove and replace the technology in a recycling facility on a dime,” McMorris said. “The clock was ticking and it was running out.”

“Now you may not agree with the way that we did it, but we did it above board; we followed policy and we did what we thought was in the best interest of Cobb,” said McMorris.

Despite the disagreement with how the county staff went about this contract, they are setting up a formal RFP after the new contract with WestRock expires.

The BOC voted 3-1 in approval of the contract, with Gambrill in opposition. Commissioner Joann Birrell abstained from the vote due to a conflict of interest.

The new contract creates a recycling fee not to exceed $47 for all Cobb residents for the next five years.

Caleb Groves is a Journalism student at Kennesaw State University, where he is a junior.

Originally from Minnesota, Caleb moved to Georgia with his family, where he now lives in Woodstock with his Father, Stepmom and numerous pets.

When he is not in writing, in class or coaching rock climbing, he spends his time listening to music and rock climbing both indoors and out

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