Archive for Monday, May 11, 2009

City won’t mess with recycling success

May 11, 2009


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Don’t expect city-sponsored curbside recycling in Lawrence anytime soon.

Bob Yoos, the city’s solid waste superintendent, said that implementing such a municipal service would likely boost the community’s current recycling rate of 35 percent — the highest in Kansas — to about 37 percent or 38 percent.

Such a rise, of course, would come at a price.

“We would divert a lot of what’s being collected through cheaper programs into more expensive programs,” Yoos said last week, discussing the Douglas-Jefferson County Solid Waste Management Plan.

Yoos said that five private companies already were providing customers in Lawrence with curbside recycling service.

About 10 percent of Lawrence residents are signed up for curbside recycling, Yoos said. Others take their bottles, cans, chipboard and other recyclable materials to the community recycling center at Wal-Mart, 3300 Iowa, or to other drop-off sites.

“A lot of people feel that the drop-off sites serve them well,” Yoos said.

The bulk of recycled materials in Lawrence is yard waste — mostly grass clippings and leaves — and cardboard, collected from residents and businesses.

Overall, the amount of waste headed to the Hamm Sanitary Landfill in Jefferson County is holding steady, said Keith Browning, Douglas County engineer and director of public works, who serves on the counties’ joint Solid Waste Management Committee.

Increased recycling in Lawrence — 30,313 tons in 2007, up from 2,000 tons in 1991 — has been key in keeping the amount of waste from growing along with the communities the landfill serves.

Charlie Sedlock, waste manager for Hamm, said that the landfill welcomed the efforts to manage the waste stream. Lawrence recently conducted the third of three “e-waste” events, during each of which about 50 tons of TVs, computer monitors and other electronics were collected and therefore diverted from becoming potential environmental problems at the landfill.

The landfill, by the way, won’t be filled anytime soon. “We’re looking at about 80 years of capacity (remaining),” Sedlock said. “It’s a much, much bigger area out there.”


Mark Zwahl 8 years, 11 months ago

Seriously. I'm waiting for some true verification about the city's recycling rate at 35%. I don't buy it. That rate certainly doesn't jibe w/ my observations of the neighbors near me and the businesses with which my business shares a dumpster. It ain't so. Please, Mark Fagan, show us the numbers and how this was arrived at.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 11 months ago

I think that's the rate of residential recycling, sowhatnow. I'd certainly be willing to bet it doesn't include the construction industry, which is doing better, but still doesn't recycle much. I don't know about other businesses, although cardboard recycling is pretty common.

And with residents, it's an average. There are a whole lot of people who recycle everything they can, probably 75% or more. There's probably an equal number who recycle nothing. An average of 35% probably isn't that far off.

jafs 8 years, 11 months ago

This seems about right to me, from my observations - 35% is about 1/3.

And, I'm glad the city isn't going to get involved in recycling.

Now, if they'd only institute a tiered trash collection system, I'd be happy.

alm77 8 years, 11 months ago

Sunflower Curbside Recycling picks ours up and it's SO inexpensive!! It costs me less to pay him to come and get it than it does for me to drive over to the Wal-mart once a week. I highly recommend them.

I agree that if the private sector is meeting the need and doing it inexpensively then the government should stay out of it.

Danielle Brunin 8 years, 11 months ago

So often we make fun of Topeka, but they're considerably more progressive when it comes to recycling than we are. Why can't we do something like this?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 11 months ago

I would rather have the city charge for trash service according to quantity thrown away per account. The folks who throw the most away pay more thus creating a city tax deduction(lower user fee) for recyclers. As it is we not only pay to have our recycling picked up we are paying the same for trash pick up while putting less demand on our fair city.

alm77 8 years, 11 months ago

merrill, I get what you're saying, but there comes a time when doing the right thing is its own reward. A pay-per-use system would cost a lot to implement and wouldn't save anyone any dollars anyway.

Jaylee 8 years, 11 months ago

my new favorite bar, dempseys, recycles now! YEAHH!!!

Tony Kisner 8 years, 11 months ago

This is a shame, the City should take over all free enterprises. In particular once the customer base has been established and the operational learing curve has flatten out.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 11 months ago

Pay per use system might just pay for itself. Yes the potential is there. Pay per use might allow some to see the advantages of recycling thus fewer trips to the landfill.

On a 4-5 miles per gallon trash truck it could pay back.

Joseph Jarvis 8 years, 11 months ago

I just don't get Yoos's logic:

It may cost more to recycle marginally more trash, but he doesn't account for the value of becoming sustainable. You can't dig a pit and bury trash forever. Lawrence is way older than 80 years and growing. Even if you could just keep digging pits, is it really what we want to give future generations. I think it's an environmental justice issue too. How is it fair for the neighbors of the hot spot landfill to have to deal with all of society's trash?

That five companies have sprung up ought to signal high demand for curbside recycling, which is a good indicator this is a fundamental service like trash pickup and appropriately handled by the city.

And that the dropoff sites work well doesn't mean that city curbside would be bad. Only that we've filled the conspicuous gap of the city recycling with half-decent solutions.

@alm77: The private sector might meet the need now, but I think it's long term about principle, risk management, and accountability. A public entity could subsidize the collection of unwanted waste like glass or plastic bags from the profits of popular waste like aluminium or paper so that we recycle as much as we can. And aside from a government, non-profit collector, or regulated private company, what's to guarantee pickup if market conditions change? Waste removal is about as fundamental a service as they come. We couldn't afford to just not have some part of the service in the future. Finally, what say does the public have in how it's done? Lawrence could privatize water supply but we don't because of the intangible value of public oversight and accountability.

@Easy_Does_It: I have a little sympathy, but let's not pretend these businesses are innocent victims. They don't operate in vacuums. They knew or should have known they were taking a risk moving into a field that's traditionally monopolized by cities. There's no reason the city couldn't transition by contracting with these companies for a period, allowing them to recoup some of their investments.

jafs 8 years, 11 months ago


One problem is that city recycling would inevitably involve large inefficient collection vehicles - trash trucks get about 3mpg, I believe.

The service I used to use used smallish trucks with attachments - I'll bet they get much better mileage.

And, when I do it myself, of course, it's even better - especially since I can take some stuff to a neighborhood collection center a couple of blocks away from my house.

It's like the bus system - sounds good in theory, but has some problems in practice, even environmentally.

jafs 8 years, 11 months ago

The better way to encourage more recycling would be to institute a tiered charge for trash pickup, creating a financial incentive for people to recycle.

gccs14r 8 years, 11 months ago

No vehicle gets good fuel economy when it has to stop every 50' and stand idling for 30 seconds or longer. It's better to have one big truck do that at 3 mpg than five smaller trucks do it at 6.

average 8 years, 11 months ago

Pay per use (typically special color bags or stickers) makes a certain amount of sense. Certain conservative types on the board like to moan that they won't recycle because they don't get paid, pleasantly ignoring the socialism inherent in the fact that those of us who put out very little garbage subsidize those who put out 5 big bins every week.

The flip side, though, merrill, is in enforcement and compliance. I don't want thousands of college students to decide that they'd rather spend their money on beer than garbage tags, so dump their trash in some rural ditch. Yeah, that's illegal. But, you'd have to add the cost of enforcing it (substantial) to the costs of the system. The current system at least makes proper landfilling the easiest option.

jafs 8 years, 11 months ago


If the garbage rates are raised, the recycling isn't "free".

And, if people start recycling more, they'll put out less trash, and pay lower trash bills, thus cutting into the fund for the recycling.

Unless the lower costs of administering landfills would offset that.

pace 8 years, 11 months ago

Yoo's numbers are cooked. He is a terrible sanitation manager and an awful choice to supervise recycling. Unless you want obstruction. Curbside collection of paper/cardboards would be efficient. There is paper in every home and business. It doesn't have to be a all or nothing collection. Metal and paper have markets, they go up and down but don't disappear like glass and plastics markets do. If we are practical, we would save money on those trips to Jefferson county and heck, reduce pollution.
yoos is one of the reasons the city should have an outsider audit practices and policies for efficiency. But of course should we do something different. Yes we should.

pace 8 years, 11 months ago

A lot of towns, incorporate the recycling businesses into their plan. Lawrence should work with the businesses not dump the entire problem in their lap. Working with the businesses and going city wide is the right thing to do. Not to plan for city wide collection of paper/cardboard and metals is so short sighted. The resource conservation board, who was asked by the city to study and recommend approaches, sure don't back Yoo's up on his fanciful reasoning. They have made some sound suggestions, practical and particular to this community, and they get squat recognition from Yoo's . The city pick up grass in paper bags on Mondays, if they picked up paper even once a month the community as a whole could participate. yoo's doesn't count the people who have just a little, or those who can't drive, etc. he doesn't even count them. Curbside collection would increase the resources this country's manufacturing, it would result in environmental savings, Recycling is good education for people. It motivates and encourages people to use less, to reduce. Being a stupid consumer, buying worthless crap and throwing aluminum cans in the dump is just plain dumb. This country is changing, looking at itself, if we want to take pride in who we are, we need to take responsibility for how we act.

jafs 8 years, 11 months ago


The city does pick up grass clippings once a week - I wonder how much that costs in terms of energy/resources?

Once a month wouldn't be anywhere near enough for us for paper pick-up - we'd still have to recycle somewhere else.

If people just have a little to recycle, the resources spent on picking it up might outweigh the resources saved.

Having the city be more efficient in it's general operations would probably be more environmentally important and meaningful - the city just spent 4-5 days at least mowing the grass in a park near our house. I'm sure it took a bit of gas to transport the large mowers each day to and from the site.

Why not come out once and do the whole area?

Also, adjusting thermostats in all public buildings would save quite a bit.


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