Year-round yard waste collection, other trash and recycling changes to begin in May

More sustainability efforts also in the works

A city truck picks up yard waste in south Lawrence in this file photo from May 18, 2009.

When trucks make their rounds this week, city workers will be tagging bins with brightly colored notes advising residents of schedule and rule changes for trash, recycling and yard waste pickup.

The changes to solid waste collection are effective May 1 and will include year-round yard waste collection and different trash and recycling days for about one-third of residents. The changes will create one “service day.”

“We’re just trying to balance out the work week, the work flow and the fleet,” said Kathy Richardson, solid waste division manager.

Yard waste will be picked up year-round, as winter weather permits, on the same day as residents’ trash and recycling. Instead of using their own containers, residents must put yard waste in compostable yard waste bags or a city-issued 95-gallon yard waste bin, which can be purchased for $60.

The changes could boost the city’s recycling rates, which include yard waste pickup.

Reasons for changes

The reasons for the changes are twofold, and have to do with working conditions and warmer winters.

Richardson said that the city has grown too large to collect yard waste in one day and that the five-day collection schedule breaks up what was becoming an extensive workday.

“We had a shift where our employees started at 6 in the morning and they didn’t wrap up until 5:30 that night,” Richardson said. “That’s a really long day, and this is what happens in yard-waste peak season.”

Richardson said the changes to acceptable containers help manage the weight and size of loads for workers. She said the yard waste bags can be easily thrown into the trucks, and the carts can be attached and tipped by the truck.

The year-round schedule has become more necessary the past three years, as the area has experienced relatively mild winters, Richardson said.

“A lot of customers gave feedback on that, and they’ve been giving feedback for the last couple winters because the winters have been so mild,” Richardson said. “They’ve mentioned how their leaves don’t fall until the end of December or early January sometimes.”

When yard waste collection was done seasonally, the city would collect yard waste along with regular trash if the city wasn’t making rounds. But for those thinking they may just skirt the new rules by throwing grass clippings, leaves or other yard waste in the trash, Richardson said city ordinance requires yard waste to be put out separately.

Recycling rates

Yard waste counts toward the city’s recycling totals, and the change to a year-round schedule will likely give those numbers a boost. The changes to the program were first announced last month, and since then Richardson said that 1,000 yard waste carts have been purchased.

The city’s single-stream, curbside recycling program began in 2014. Eileen Horn, Lawrence-Douglas County sustainability coordinator, said the recycling and yard waste programs are key parts of the city’s sustainability efforts.

“Recycling and composting operations continue to be one of the key core services that we provide as a city that helps us really walk the talk in terms of sustainability,” Horn said.

Last year, about 14,000 tons of yard waste was collected curbside or dropped off at the city’s compost facility, according to Richardson. About 8,000 tons of recyclable materials were collected from curbside, public and business collection bins.

The about 22,000 tons of yard waste and recycling materials collected in 2016 were up slightly from the previous year, in which about 21,400 tons were collected.

Other sustainability efforts

Additional sustainability efforts are also in the works.

The Hamm Landfill, which serves Lawrence, is constructing a $16 million methane gas plant and pipeline. The plant will capture the methane gas generated as trash breaks down, reducing the landfill’s greenhouse gas emissions and serving as a renewable fuel source. The plant will be finished by June, according to Charlie Sedlock, division manager at Hamm.

The city also has plans in motion. In February, the City Commission authorized $11.3 million in energy-efficient improvements to lighting, heating and cooling systems, and other city equipment. Lawrence-based 360 Energy Engineers will be the general contractor for the project.

360 Energy Engineers completed an energy audit of the city’s facilities, and a performance contract guarantees that the energy savings will cover the payments on the bonds that will be issued to fund the project.

“The project is energy-efficiency measures in 40-plus city facilities, and so it has very quantifiable environmental benefits,” Horn said. “Because we know exactly how many kilowatt hours of electricity and how many therms of natural gas we’re going to save.”

The project will save about 3,200 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents annually, which is the equivalent to taking about 700 passenger cars off the road each year, according to Horn. The “green” bonds to fund the project will be issued in early May, and installation and construction will take place for the rest of 2017, Horn said.

Horn said increasing the efficiency of the city’s operations — including its many fleets of vehicles and dozens of facilities — will be the next step for the city. A facilities master plan was called for as part of the commission’s strategic plan, and discussions regarding facility consolidation have recently begun at City Hall.

“How we use space and how we use our fleets most efficiently also has serious sustainability impacts,” Horn said. “The more we as a city locate our operations all over the place, that’s more driving that our staff do, and that adds to our environmental impact.”

Trash, recycling and yard waste changes, starting May 1:

• Trash and recycling pickup will shift from a four- to a five-day schedule, requiring about one-third of residents’ pickup days to change. For those customers, tags notifying them of their new service day will be put on carts this week.

• Set-out times for trash, recycling and yard waste will be one hour earlier, shifting from 7 a.m. to 6 a.m. As before, empty carts must be removed from the curb within 24 hours.

• Yard waste pickup will be year round, as winter weather permits, and will be the same day as trash and recycling pickup. Recycling pickup will continue to be every other week.

• For yard waste, bundles of branches will still be picked up, as long as they are bound and meet existing guidelines (less than 5 feet long, 18 inches in diameter and 65 pounds). Otherwise, yard waste must be set out in compostable yard waste bags or city-issued yard waste carts. The 95-gallon carts can be purchased for $60, with the option to spread the cost over six months or a year.

• The city will collect and recycle personal yard waste cans/carts that residents no longer wish to keep on April 28. Containers should be empty and marked with an “X”.

• Trash, recycling and yard waste will be collected on additional holidays. The only holidays on which waste will not be collected are Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Post-holiday collection will continue to shift everyone’s schedule one day.

• As before, trash, recycling and yard waste carts need to be three feet away from each other and other obstacles, such as mailboxes, cars and utility poles. Each cart must be used for its designated purpose.

Source: City of Lawrence