A report showing that Lawrence residents already recycle solid waste at a rate above the national average indicates that now isn't the time for the city to get into the curbside recycling business.
The city's solid waste division reported last week that Lawrence's recycling rate in 2007 was 35 percent, compared with the Environmental Protection Agency's national estimate of 32.5 percent. That's not to say that Lawrence residents can't do more, but it shows that the current public and private recycling efforts are doing a pretty good job.
Many people are willing to pay a small fee for private contractors to pick up recyclable material at the curb. Others are willing to invest the effort to deposit recyclable waste at Wal-Mart or in one of the drop-off boxes scattered across the city for newspaper, cardboard and other material.
As Mayor Mike Dever pointed out, the report is a good indication of local residents' commitment to recycling material that otherwise would find its way to the local landfill. Lawrence is an environmentally conscious community, but the decision about whether we should have a municipal curbside recycling service depends largely on how much additional trash that service would divert from the landfill.
If enough trash is recycled rather than going to the landfill, that could produce a savings that would justify or offset the expense of collecting and processing recyclable material. But with such a high rate of recycling participation now, how much could the city expect to gain by instituting its own curbside service?
A city service likely would have to be one-size-fits-all. Everyone would be charged the same fee regardless of how much material they recycle, rather than having the many options now offered by private recyclers. People who now use free recycling services also would have to pay even if they are satisfied with their current cost-free option.
The city makes new efforts each year to step up its recycling program. Given the latest statistics, it's clear those efforts are paying off. Especially in the current tight economic times, there's no reason for the city to shift its recycling strategy.