The downtown alleys at about 6:45 a.m. on Tuesday were filled with the unmistakable sounds of beer bottles clanging together in a trash bin about to be emptied and taken to the landfill.
That’s nothing new. But what was new was that members of the city’s Solid Waste Task Force were there to hear it, and wonder why it happens.
“That was a real sign to me that we’re not doing enough to promote glass recycling in this town,” said Suzi Cammon, a member of the task force studying possible changes for the city’s trash and recycling systems. “I’m out here looking for areas that we can create incentives for people to produce less trash.”
Task force members loaded into a city bus Tuesday morning and followed around a city trash truck crew while it emptied alleys in downtown, in the Oread neighborhood and in a more traditional suburban neighborhood.
The tour was part of what Mayor Aron Cromwell said is a “crash course” in how the city currently operates its trash and recycling businesses.
Understanding how the system works, will be critical when it comes to make recommendations on how the system should change. For example, buying more fully-automated trucks that use smaller crews is an idea that is expected to get discussion by the task force.
But Tuesday’s tour showed how such trucks may struggle in the alleys and the densely populated student districts where parked cars and overhead power lines could interfere with the trucks’ robotic-like arms.
The tour also highlighted how much faster crews can operate in a typical suburban neighborhood when residents use wheeled trash carts instead of the standard trash cans. The task force is expected to discuss the idea of requiring residents to use the trash carts that can be emptied with mechanical lifts.
“I think we’re seeing there are areas that automation will work pretty well, and there are areas where it won’t work,” Cromwell said.
As for recycling, Cromwell said he will push for some improvements in that area even before the task force finishes its report, which likely will be in about 10 months. Cromwell said he will lobby to have money for an improved glass recycling system included in the 2012 budget. He said glass collection containers need to be placed near bars, and he said he is continuing to work with Kansas City-based Ripple Glass to take glass collected by the city. The company uses the glass to make insulation.
“We want to do a lot better at recycling,” Cromwell said. “We’re above average nationally, but we’re the type of community that we should be way above average. People should be looking to us to see what is possible in this area.”