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Privatize trash service or city run

Emporia considers trash and curbside recycling option

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Posted: Friday, May 18, 2012 12:00 am

The city of Emporia is considering its options in starting curbside recycling and handling trash collection.

When the Natural Resources Advisory Board presented its feasibility study on single-stream curbside recycling to the City Commission at the March 28 study session, the board recommended two options: the city collects recycling and ships to a materials recovery facility or the city privatizes both recycling and trash collections.

“When the Natural Resources Advisory Board did their study of creating a curbside recycling program, they did a good job with their research,” City Manager Matt Zimmerman said. “And part of their research was to look at how private sector companies provide curbside recycling as well as processing of recyclables; and during the course of those conservations, the private sector companies … indicated that they might have an interest in providing full garbage collection and curbside recycling — all of this with one contract.

“The City Commission has asked staff to take a look at both the proposals from the Natural Resources Advisory Board about curbside recycling and whether or not it makes physical sense to look at privatizing our collection services. But that leads to a lot of questions, too, like what level of service, how often does it get collected, what if there are problems. A whole bunch of things that need to be taken a look at. That’s why it is going to take us a while to look at both issues.”

Zimmerman does not think the curbside recycling program will begin before Jan. 1, 2013, at the soonest, but May 2013 may be more realistic, he said at the Eggs and Issues — a question-and-answer session with the commission — on Saturday.

“I am hoping by mid to late summer, we would have to put a placeholder in the budget,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t think we can do the budget and curbside recycling at the same time just from the staff’s standpoint let alone City Commission’s schedule.”

The curbside recycling start-up costs for the city could be $643,132 if it handled the recycling.

At Eggs and Issues, Commissioner Joel Phipps said said he did not think citizens were dissatisfied with the city’s services.

“I don’t think that I ever heard a complaint,” he said. “It seems to really be smooth the way it is. So, if we go to private sector, it may not be so much. It is hard to tell.”

Emporia currently handles the trash, takes it the transfer station and loads the trash on trucks owned by Hamm Industries — which then takes the trash to its Lawrence facility.

The current trash rate is $14.84 per month, according to board and city documents. The city is contracted to pay for a minimum of 22,000 tons of trash per year. The city’s contract with Hamm expires in 2015.

The city started its recycling program in 1989, according to the city’s website. In 2011, Emporia transferred 1,738 tons in recycling. Residential was 500 tons and commercial was 1,238 tons.

Citizens can transport their recyclables to the recycling center at 3100 W. South Ave., the recycling trailer in the Dillons East parking lot at 902 E. 12th Ave. or have a company — such as Green Door Recycling of Emporia — pick up their recycling.

The proposed curbside recycling program would initially be for single family dwellings.

Green Door could not handle the recycling for the entire city under the program, said Owner Amy Becker at the March 28 study session. She will be formulating an exit strategy based on the commission’s decision.

The companies who showed interest in providing curbside recycling include:

Allied Waste in combination with Midwest Shredding Service

Deffenbaugh Industries Inc.


Waste Connections Inc.

Waste Management Inc.

Amy Becker, who is also the chair of the Natural Resources Advisory Board, said when the board looked at towns similar to Emporia’s size, the cities did their own collections.

“I think it means more stability for the city of Emporia to be doing their own (collection services) and having control over that,” Becker said. “It means we get to manage our own employees and manage the load that is taken to the corporation, so we probably would have our hands in the process more.

“The benefit for having the corporation come do the collection is that it might offer us a few more perks. Some of them do things like big bulky loads once a month where you can take anything out to the curb, and they would take it. … But either way we should be able to recycle the same things, which is way more than we can recycle now in Emporia.”

The costs associated between the city and the corporation are unknown until the negotiation and contract process is completed.

“If we went with a corporation doing the collections, it would own the trucks, it would have all the wear and tear and maintenance on its trucks versus us having to paying for that for our own equipment,” Becker said.

The board projected 7,600 households are available for the recycling program with 65 percent participation and 12 to 15 pounds of recylables collected per week.

The resources board visited El Dorado, Winfield and Newton when doing the feasibility study.

The city of Newton handles its own curbside trash and recycling and ships them to the Harvey County Landfill, said Carl Burch, Newton’s sanitation services supervisor. The landfill has a contract with Wichita-based Waste Connections for recyclables.

He said Newton started curbside recycling in about 1999 with dual-stream recycling and started single-stream in 2012.

“It has been real, real easy to switch” Burch said. “Real well received, I believe by our residents because instead of having to sort it now, they just put everything in one big 90-gallon recycle cart, and it works real well for them. We also expanded our program at the time when we did that, too. We were just no. 1 and 2 food and beverage plastics and now were are numbers 1 through 7 food and beverage plastics.”

He said when a community decides to start a curbside recycling program, it must evaluate its needs and requirements and how its streets are situated. Burch was not with Newton when it analyzed whether the city or a corporation should handle the trash and recycling collections.

“I feel staying with the city, though, you provide a better service than private entities provide,” Burch said.

Ada, Okla., switched in December from the city handling the trash to WCA Waste Corp. handling the collections and then curbside recycling, said Lisa Bratcher, city of Ada’s public relations specialist. Citizens put their recyclables in a blue 18-gallon bin and trash in a 95-gallon polycart on the same day.

“When we first started it in December, the response in recycling was pretty minimal,” Bratcher said. “And then around February or so, it was up to 25 percent, and we were pretty happy with that. But now, only five months later, we’re at 75 percent ... of the (more than 6,500) residents that have Ada city utilities and trash service or recycling.

“The switching over of the trash was a little bit of a different matter. It was kind of confusing for a lot of the people to say the least in the beginning, and we were bombarded with calls and confusion.”

She said she recommends Emporia educate the public — before choosing a collection option — by newspaper, by radio, by fliers, or by putting something on the utilities bills.

“This is what is going to happen and this is what the rules are going to be,” Bratcher said. “Because what happened here was they got it out, and when everyone received their trash cans or their polycarts, there was instructions on what to do, but a lot of people didn’t read them. And so (the instructions) were just thrown away and then people were confused and having to call like crazy because we switched from two-day a week service to one-day a week service. And that’s how WCA wanted to do it.”

She said each resident’s bill did not increase but decreased. WCA provided curbside recycling for free.

Shawnee County commissioners approved, 3-0, Monday for Waste Management to build a material recovery facility, which will be used for countywide curbside recycling, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Becker said the resources board discovered the costs would be too high for the city to build a material recovery facility for the quantity of materials the city would provide.

“The choice for Emporia is do we want to proceed with curbside recycling?” Becker said. “And then do we want to do the collections? Or do we want a corporation to do the collections? Either way we have to have a relationship with that corporation because they are the ones that are going to buy the recycling.”

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