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Getting closer to recycling

Commission likely to vote Monday

Staff writer

Marion County does not have a countywide recycling program, but that could change in the near future.

Commissioners discussed a proposed program Tuesday with Transfer Station Director Rollin Schmidt. A vote on a contract with Sonoco of Hutchinson will likely be at the commission meeting Monday.

In the absence of a county program, Hillsboro and Peabody established city programs.

Hillsboro allows residents to drop off recyclables 5-7 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays. Community groups, such as the Lions’ Club, man the station. Participants are required to sort their recyclables into containers for different materials.

Stutzman Refuse Disposal of Hutchinson picks up recyclables in curbside containers every other week, Peabody City Clerk Stephanie Ax said.

Residents sort their recyclables in two categories — paper in one, and glass, metal, and plastic in the other. Residents pay $2.50 per household for the service, whether they use it or not.

Transfer Station Director Rollin Schmidt has worked to establish a county recycling program since he started at the transfer station about two and one-half years ago.

There are several reasons the county needs to recycle. Kansas requires counties to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, and recycling is the easiest way to do this.

Recycling could reduce county costs. Marion County sent 587 tons of waste to a landfill in December at an average cost of $38.63 per ton for hauling and landfill fees.

“I don’t see how it can cost $38 per ton to recycle,” Schmidt said.

Recycling could generate revenue from the sale of materials, offsetting some of the cost.

There are possible barriers to starting a recycling program, Schmidt acknowledged. The market for recycled goods plummeted with the rest of the economy.

County Commissioner Randy Dallke said recycling could be more expensive than anticipated, perhaps even costlier than sending refuse to a landfill.

Low participation could doom a program. Keeping recycling simple would be important to maintaining high participation.

“If they tell people they have to take their stuff to a Dumpster, it will be a dud,” Ax said.

The proposal

Marion County has a contract proposal from Sonoco of Hutchinson. If the county approved the five-year contract, Sonoco would lease the county a baler for $1 and would pickup recyclables from the transfer station free-of-charge. If market prices for recycled goods were high, the county would receive a portion of the revenue, Schmidt said.

In return, the county would need to supply Sonoco with about eight tons of recyclables per month. If the county didn’t meet that requirement, it would have to pay to ship the baler back to Sonoco.

Schmidt suggested hauling a trailer to the towns in Marion County at regular times for residents to drop off recyclables. The dropoff would be supervised by someone from the transfer station to ensure things were being properly sorted.

County residents could also take recyclables to the transfer station.

The county would certainly recycle cardboard and paper, Schmidt said. Aluminum, glass, plastic, and tin potentially could be recycled, too.

The County Commission could decide how carefully sorted the materials would be. Meticulously sorted materials fetch higher prices.

Idea has support

The proposed recycling program has support from some county residents. Schmidt said he was surprised at the number of county residents who advocated starting a recycling program.

Margaret Wilson, of Marion, recycles on her own. She pays Stutzman Refuse Disposal $5 per month for picking up her recycling once a month.

“By the time the truck comes around once a month, our garage is full,” Wilson said.

In contrast, Wilson only puts a bag of garbage out for collection by the city about once every two months.

Wilson said she would like to see a countywide curbside recycling program, but she would happily take her recyclables to the transfer station.

Eileen Sieger, of rural Marion, also has monthly roadside pickup. Like Wilson, she said she would drop off recyclables at the transfer station if it were an option. She takes garbage to the transfer station already, so it wouldn’t be a burden, she said.

Curbside pickup is the most convenient solution, Sieger said, but she doesn’t think it would be feasible for a countywide program.

“People think, ‘What can one person do?’ but it has to start somewhere,” Sieger said. It just takes a change in people’s habits.

Commission Chairman Dan Holub supports the proposed system.

The county could divert a lot of waste from landfills without even looking at household waste. Government offices, schools, and businesses generate enough trash to justify a program, he said.

“I just don’t see where we’re out anything for trying,” Holub said.

Commissioner Bob Hein thinks a recycling program is feasible, but it would be important to inform residents about a program.

“I think it will work, but it will take some time,” Hein said.

Dallke said he thinks recycling is the right thing to do, but he wants to make sure a program would work.

Before Peabody started curbside pickup, it tried an unsupervised dropoff, he said.

People abused the system, throwing trash with recyclables and not sorting recyclables, Dallke said.

He likes Peabody’s pickup program and thinks Hillsboro and Marion could adopt a similar program.

Dallke said his foremost concern is reducing the cost to Marion County taxpayers. He would want to know how much the county spent per ton to recycle after one year. If it cost more to recycle than send waste to a landfill, the county would need to consider other options, including ending recycling.

Mandatory system unlikely

Newton is happy with its mandatory recycling program, said Newton Street and Sanitation Superintendent Randy Jackson.

Newton has curbside recycling, and refuse collectors watch for program violations. They leave notices for noncompliance, instructing people how to meet the program requirements.

The city only takes serious action for flagrant and repeated violations, Jackson said. The program diverts more than 20 percent of the city’s waste to be recycled.

As successful as Newton’s program is, mandatory recycling in Marion County is unlikely. It would be difficult to enforce standards in the many rural areas of the county.

Holub said he would oppose any effort to make recycling mandatory.

Last modified Jan. 21, 2009

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