County, Waste Connections pursue recycling
By Rod Haxton, editor
While no one is disputing the benefits of recycling, there’s also one other indisputable fact.
To operate a recycling center cost Scott County just over $57,000 in 2013. Costs are on pace to be about $50,000 in 2014.
That has prompted the Scott County Commission to approach Waste Connections about the possibility of the company offering a recycling program as part of its trash collection service.
Representatives of the company have indicated they are willing to study the feasibility of a program and what it would cost the county.
“In more and more of the communities we serve we’re hearing requests to offer recycling,” noted Jeff Fawcett, municipal marketing manager for Waste Connections, which is the parent company of Northend Disposal. “It’s something we’re willing to look at doing.”
Commissioners are hopeful the change might solve the dual problem of declining participation and rising costs.
Costs have ranged from a low of $25,343 in 2009 to last year’s $57,195. Meanwhile, tonnage collected by the recycling center and sent to the Northwest Kansas Regional Recycling Organization in Colby peaked at 199.5 tons in 2009 but has dropped to 129.5 tons in 2013.
Public Works Director Richard Cramer says other counties have reported similar declines after a program has been in effect for a few years.
“When you start everyone has stuff stacked away and they start bringing it in. And some people just don’t recycle like they used to because it becomes an inconvenience,” he says.
There have also been other factors.
In 2009 and 2010 there were state grants which made it possible for people to drop off their e-waste at no cost. The e-waste collected during those years amounted to 22,924 pounds and 26,274 pounds, respectively.
People are now asked to pay 25 cents a pound to drop off their e-waste. Last year only 530 pounds of e-waste were collected in the county.
In the early years of the program there was also considerable cardboard being dropped off at the recycling center by Pamida and Alco. That material is now being held by those companies and returned to their distribution centers.
However, Cramer feels that if there is a curbside program and all recyclable material can be put into a single dumpster without pre-sorting it would improve participation.
“I’d guess that maybe 50 percent of the people are currently recycling,” says Cramer. “Businesses don’t participate like they should. “But I could see participation improving if people didn’t have to separate everything and haul it two miles south (to the recycling center).”
Commission Chairman Jim Minnix expressed concern that maintaining the current recycling program “will become more of a challenge.” Since the NWKRRO doesn’t receive state support, participating counties have seen their membership fees increase significantly over the past 2-3 years.
Cramer says the county’s cost will take a hit sometime in the next few years when it comes time to replace some equipment at the local recycling center.
“We haven’t been in it long enough for the big equipment to need replacing, but it’s going to happen someday,” he says.
Fawcett said the additional cost for Waste Connections to offer a curbside recycling program in Derby is $4.75 per month. He said transportation would be a factor for Western Kansas communities, but would come up with a cost early next year.
Residential customers are currently paying $15 per month for trash service. Commissioner Jerry Buxton suggested the county could perhaps charge a $20 fee for voluntary pick-up.
“If it’s mandatory I’m afraid there’d be too much objection,” Buxton said.
Fawcett said that unless the program is mandatory it wouldn’t be feasible.
“We have to determine whether it’s worth bringing a truck (for recycled items),” noted Fawcett.
With a mandatory program, Buxton felt it might be possible to get by with an added cost of $2 per month for residential customers.
“I like this idea better than what we’re doing now. I think more people will participate,” said Buxton.
Reduced Landfill Cost
At the same time, the county is hopeful that if the recycling effort is significant enough it will lead to a reduction in landfill fees for the county. Fawcett presented the county with three rate proposals that would be part of a new contract.
Those rates, noted Minnix, are based on the current flow of trash.
“That should be reduced with more recycling,” he suggested.
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