Wal-Mart is cutting hours at its community recycling center in Lawrence, as the world’s largest retailer welcomes assistance from City Hall to help stem losses amid a collapse in revenues from recycled materials.
Wal-Mart’s Eco Center, which is adjacent to the retailer’s supercenter at 3300 Iowa, now will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week, and closed entirely on Tuesdays and all major holidays.
The center had been open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, except when closed for a single holiday: Christmas Day.
“The recycling market has really tanked, in the economy that we’ve got today,” said Bill Wertz, a Wal-Mart spokesman. “Costs haven’t gone down, but the price the center gets for its materials has really gone done.
“We haven’t changed our minds about recycling. We haven’t diminished our commitment to do it. But we still need to keep the center on a sustainable basis itself.”
The Eco Center is owned by Wal-Mart, and the retailer pays Community Living Opportunities to operate it with the agency’s own employees and clients.
The center is open to the public for dropping off a variety of materials for recycling, including aluminum, glass, cardboard, chipboard, milk bottles, newspapers and others.
Now, as prices paid for those materials have dropped, Wal-Mart has been looking for ways to keep the center viable, Wertz said.
The schedule change is one method, he said, noting that Tuesdays had traditionally been the slowest for the center.
“It’s really an effort to keep the center on a sustainable cost basis,” he said.
The city of Lawrence also is poised to help.
Tuesday night, Lawrence city commissioners will consider purchasing a refurbished baling machine to handle aluminum and steel cans. The total cost would be no higher than $5,000, and would be operated and maintained at the expense of Wal-Mart.
The center currently has no baler for such cans, cutting into the efficiency of selling the materials for reuse.
David Corliss, city manager, said the investment would pay off through the savings from otherwise collecting and dump such cans in a landfill north of town.
“What we were faced with was Wal-Mart finding that it was not economical, as far as their Eco Center goes, to continue to recycle tin,” Corliss said. “They needed a baler in order to do it. I know that place is a popular place for recycling.
“So, for the relatively modest amount that we are spending, we’ll be able to keep recycling tin at that location. The market for recyclables is down, but the need for recycling is not.”
Wertz, of Wal-Mart, said that he was unaware of just how much recycling revenues had declined.
But Kathy Richardson, the city’s operations supervisor for waste reduction and recycling, confirmed that the market for at least four materials the city collects — corrugated cardboard, newspapers, office paper and mixed paper — remains down.
Through the first five months of this year, she said, the city had generated $35,000 in revenue from such materials. For the same period a year ago — and for essentially the same amount collected — the city had received $112,000.
“That gives you a picture,” she said.
Commissioners will consider the baler purchase during their weekly meeting, which begins at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.