Planning underway for potential expansion of city recycling collection

Recycling materials are pulled up a conveyor to be sent through a complex sorting system on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016 at the Hamm's Recycling Facility, 26195 Linwood Road, that processes Lawrence's recyclable materials.

At its work session Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission expressed interest in expanding the city’s single-stream recycling service to businesses.

As plans move forward, key factors in those discussions will be cost and logistics.

Kathy Richardson, solid waste manager for the city, said many businesses have expressed interest in such a program. However, she said staff has been letting those businesses know there would be additional charges for the service, as the city needs to recover collection costs.

“We’ve all been getting a lot of emails and definitely interest in the program,” Richardson told the commission. “I do think that some businesses are thinking the program is going to be provided at no additional cost, and we’ve been letting everybody know that there is a cost to collection.”

The city contracts with Hamm recycling facility for its single-stream recycling service and is charged per ton of material. In addition, Richardson said it would require more trucks and personnel to make voluntary single-stream recycling collection available to businesses citywide.

Recycling options for Lawrence businesses are currently limited, and Commissioner Matthew Herbert requested the work session to discuss whether a city-run single-stream recycling service for businesses has any viability.

Richardson said that the division is currently working on a business plan for an expansion, and that those service fees would be similar in structure to the trash service fees, which have varying levels depending on container size and collection schedule.

Richardson said some challenges to consider include space issues for additional collection containers, especially downtown, and the efficiency of collections, which would be more spread out in a voluntary program.

The city’s residential single-stream recycling collection service began in the fall of 2014, and Hamm officials told the commission the recycling facility is currently operating at 25 percent capacity.

Herbert expressed some frustration with how long it is taking for a commercial recycling option to be available, and said he’d been hoping for more specific details about the city’s plan for a rollout.

“For the past two years, it’s been a consistent, ‘We’ll have something next year, we’ll have something next year,'” Herbert said. “I understand it takes money, resources, personnel, it takes all that. But I would kind of like to have an idea of what we can tell people.”

Richardson said the business plan could be brought to the commission for review in December or January. She said if the commissioners were to approve the business plan, an incremental rollout of commercial recycling could begin in Spring 2018. She said the first increment could begin with the division’s current personnel and trucks, but would require additional resources to offer citywide availability.

Commissioners were supportive of considering an expansion and said they were looking forward to seeing the business plan.

“I think with that piece of information, we’re going to be able to have that discussion that (Herbert) is desiring, and be able to formulate where we’re going to be on the plan,” Commissioner Mike Amyx said. “I think that that’s a good idea.”