And you thought the hardest part about citywide, curbside recycling was going to be remembering what day to kick everything to the curb.
Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday began to find out they have a whole host of tough questions to answer before creating the new service.
Should the city service accept glass? Should the city give preference to a local contractor? What should the city do to compensate several mom-and-pop recycling companies that likely will be put out of business?
But commissioners seemed to find the answer to the one question that has hovered over the issue the longest: Is it affordable?
“We’re at a really exciting point here,” City Commissioner Aron Cromwell said. “How we structure this system or exactly where the materials go, we don’t know yet, but it appears clear that for around $2 a month, we have an opportunity to have curbside recycling in this community. That is really amazing.”
Commissioners at their weekly meeting did not make any final decisions about the curbside recycling program. But they did receive a staff recommendation that calls for curbside recycling service to be provided on an every-other-week basis, and that households be equipped with a 96-gallon cart to handle their recycling. The cart would be in addition to the standard 65-gallon trash cart the city provided to most households recently.
City staff members said they also want to strongly consider changing the days some households currently set out their trash, which in the future also would be the day they set out their recycling.
Currently, the city collects residential trash Tuesday through Thursday. Under the new system, the city is contemplating picking up residential trash and recycling Tuesday through Friday.
There are several details of a potential program that remain uncertain, though. Whether the curbside service would take glass bottles is one of the bigger questions.
The city received proposals from three companies that would provide recycling processing services: Waste Management, which has a plant in Topeka; Deffenbaugh Industries, which has a plant in Kansas City, Kan.; and Hamm Inc., which is proposing to build a plant just outside of North Lawrence near Highway 24/40 and Kansas Highway 32.
Of the three, only Waste Management’s proposal currently would allow for glass collection. But Hamm officials said they easily could design the new plant to accept glass, if that is deemed a priority by the commission.
Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to allow all three companies to submit new proposals that explain how they would handle glass in the community.
“If glass can’t work as part of our proposal, I’m not going to force it,” Mayor Bob Schumm said. “But if it can work, I want to see it happen.”
The recycling industry has been split on whether co-mingling glass with other recyclable materials damages the re-sale value of the other materials.
Commissioners also were asked on Tuesday to think about the value of having a recycling processing facility right outside of the city limits.
Charlie Sedlock, director of waste services for Hamm, said the company is prepared to spend “several million dollars” to convert the former Lacy Steel building just outside of North Lawrence into a state-of-the-art recycling processing center.
He estimated the center would employ 15 to 20 people and would have room to take on other recycling programs in the future, such as electronic equipment, building materials and perhaps even food waste.
Commissioners also briefly discussed what — if anything — the city should do to compensate about five mom-and-pop curbside recycling companies that likely would be put out of business if the city starts a citywide service.
Commissioners directed staff members to begin preparing some ideas on how the city feasibly could buy out those businesses.
As proposed, every household in the city would be required to pay for the city’s service, whether they use the service or not. The extra amount, which city officials are now estimating to be somewhere between $2 and $3 per month, would be added on to the customer’s monthly city utility bill.
The city is expected to get updated proposals from the companies in the next couple of weeks.