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Archive for Friday, April 25, 2003

Third of city’s refuse reused rather than adding to landfill

April 25, 2003

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The Earth Day parade is Saturday, but at least one indicator suggests every day is Earth Day for many Lawrence residents.

Lawrence homeowners, tenants and businesses generated more than 180 tons of trash a day last year, enough to make mountains of the stuff. Almost two-thirds of it ended up in the Hamm Sanitary Landfill, five miles northwest of the city on U.S. Highway 24.

But about 32 percent of the city's refuse was recycled, one of the highest percentages in the state, officials said.

"Lawrence is among the leading cities and counties in Kansas in overall waste diversion from landfill disposal," said Bill Bider, Bureau of Waste Management director at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Earlier this year Lawrence earned special recognition for its recycling efforts when it received the Environmental Excellence Award from Bridging the Gap, a Kansas City, Mo., agency that encourages waste prevention.

"First and foremost, recycling saves landfill space," said Diana Sjogren, a project manager with the city's Waste Reduction and Recycling Division. "And that's important because, as we all know, there's a finite amount of space, and nobody wants to see a landfill put in their back yard. If we think ahead and conserve, then, hopefully, our landfill prices won't skyrocket like they have on the coasts."

The city of Lawrence pays the Hamm landfill about $19 for each ton of garbage it dumps there. On the East and West coasts, cities routinely pay between $50 and $100 per ton.

"It's really cheap (here)," Sjogren said.

The city's recycling efforts last year kept 10,846 tons of yard waste, newspaper, cardboard, Christmas trees and metals from the landfill, Johnson said, saving the city about $208,000 in landfill fees.

Vinland Elementary School students take a peek inside a glass
recycling bin at the Wal-Mart Community Recycling Center during a
tour of the facility. A field trip Wednesday to the center and to
the Baker Wetlands was part of the school's studies on the
importance of recycling and taking care of the environment. City
data show Lawrence recycles about 32 percent of the city's refuse,
one of the highest percentages in the state.

Vinland Elementary School students take a peek inside a glass recycling bin at the Wal-Mart Community Recycling Center during a tour of the facility. A field trip Wednesday to the center and to the Baker Wetlands was part of the school's studies on the importance of recycling and taking care of the environment. City data show Lawrence recycles about 32 percent of the city's refuse, one of the highest percentages in the state.

Also, the city was paid $40,522 for the 704 tons of newsprint it collected; $45,029 for 641 tons of cardboard.

Though many Kansas cities are wrestling with landfill controversies, Lawrence is not -- not yet, anyway.

"The Hamm landfill has about 125 years left," Sjogren said. "So we won't feel the immediate impact, but our relatives not too many generations in the future will."

Currently, the landfill takes trash from cities as far away as Emporia and Abilene.

"We have a very large facility," said Charlie Sedlock, division manager for Hamm Inc.

Sedlock praised Lawrence's recycling efforts. "It works," he said. "It helps everybody out. It's smart."

When the city's recycling efforts are combined with those at Wal-Mart Community Recycling Center, officials figure Lawrence recycled 32 percent of its trash last year.





Waste Reduction and Recycling Division records show that recycling hit a record in 2002 with 10,846 tons diverted from the landfill.

Earlier figures:

  • 1998, 9,366 tons.
  • 1999, 7,618 tons.







  • J-W Staff ReportLast weekend's rain-canceled Earth Day parade has been rescheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday."It'll be a week later and an hour earlier" than originally planned, said Deb Baker, chairwoman of Lawrence's Recycling and Resource Conservation Advisory Board.It's an hour earlier, she said, to avoid conflicting with the annual Queers and Allies parade, which starts at 11 a.m.The Earth Day parade will begin at 11th and Massachusetts streets, ending at Seventh and Massachusetts streets."When they get to Seventh and Mass., we're asking people to sort of disperse or hang around downtown because at 1 p.m. the Earth Day celebration will begin on the east side of South Park," said Diana Sjogren, a project manager with the city's Waste Reduction and Recycling Division and one of the event's organizers.The celebration will feature children's activities, information booths and live music.
  • 2000, 6,881 tons.
  • 2001, 8,191 tons.

Asked to explain the 2,655-ton increase in 2002 over the previous year, Sjogren replied, "We're not sure. Some of it's due to changes in the way records are kept; some of it's due to increased participation, and some of it, perhaps, is a reflection of the fact that Lawrence is growing."

Before 2002, the records were based on paper reports turned in each week by the crews on each of 11 trash trucks. Inevitably, crews got too busy to bother with turning them all in or the reports got lost, causing minor fluctuations. So for 2002, Sjogren went to a spreadsheet model that spread the confirmed numbers over the whole collection cycle. This caused part of the increase, she says. It also reduced the margin of error.

Recycling efforts last year at Kansas University kept an estimated 400 tons of refuse -- paper, plastic and aluminum, mostly -- out of the landfill.

The university's tonnage is in addition to the amounts collected by the city and at Wal-Mart.

At the Wal-Mart center, collections remain steady.

"It's staying pretty consistent," said Theo Hall, the center's recycling coordinator.

Hall asked that customers be extra-careful in recycling white office paper.

"When we go to sell it, we don't get full price if it's mixed," Hall said. "We haven't gotten full-price yet."

Wal-Mart owns the recycling center building and its equipment; it contracts with Community Living Opportunities to operate the facility.

The center does not post a profit, said Ruth Becker, green coordinator at Wal-Mart.

"We do this because it's the right thing to do," Becker said.

Grant Clowers, who was dropping off his family's bi-weekly load of recyclables Thursday at the Wal-Mart center, agreed.

"We recycle out of respect for the earth," said Clowers, 46. "We're all connected, we're all part of the environment, and we all have an obligation to care for the environment."

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