City to begin pilot program for downtown single-stream recycling service

photo by: Nick Krug

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.

The city’s recycling trucks will soon be making a debut in downtown Lawrence.

Solid Waste Division Manager Kathy Richardson said enough businesses signed up for the city’s proposed commercial single-stream recycling pilot to launch the program in the downtown area. The service will be evaluated following the pilot, and Richardson said the city was excited to get started.

“It’s definitely something that businesses have asked for,” Richardson said. “And we’re excited about recycling and getting started here pretty soon to not only provide the service but get some key information on how we could expand.”

The city already operates a residential single-stream recycling service, and Commissioner Matthew Herbert asked that the city consider expanding the service to businesses, especially those downtown that tend to generate large quantities of recyclable material. In January, commissioners approved a business plan for a voluntary commercial recycling service.

The city proposed two pilot areas, one downtown and the other in southern Lawrence, and Richardson said only the downtown area reached the 8 percent participation rate required to go forward. About 18 participants were required for the downtown area and 12 for southern Lawrence.

Richardson said 19 downtown businesses have signed up for the pilot thus far, but that more businesses than that would actually be participating. As cost has been a concern for some, Richardson said several businesses that generate relatively low quantities of recyclable material made arrangements among themselves to share a recycling cart and divide the monthly cost.

“Some were concerned with price, especially because some of them are smaller and don’t feel like they would fill up the recycling cart six days in a row,” Richardson said.

The pilot program will use 95-gallon carts with locking lids and will cost a downtown business about $130 per month for daily pickup Monday through Saturday. Additional carts are charged $66 more per month. City staff have said trash and recycling pickup must be frequent downtown because of the limited space in alleyways for trash bins and recycling carts.

The fees are set to recover all costs for the city if 15 percent of businesses sign up, according to city calculations. Richardson said downtown businesses could continue to sign up for the program ahead of and throughout the pilot program, which is scheduled to run from about early June through December.

The downtown pilot program will be used to create a recommendation for city management and the City Commission to consider later this year. Richardson said the city would be collecting a lot of information from the businesses participating and that the recommendation could be to continue in the pilot phase, expand the service or possibly discontinue the service. She said the information gathered from the pilot could also lead to a change in the format and pricing of the service.

“That’s why it’s a pilot, so we can get good information on the needs of businesses with this recycling program, how much we’re collecting in the downtown, what are those concerns or problem areas where the alley is very tight and there’s not a lot of room for containers,” Richardson said. “That type of information — and how we find solutions to those issues.”

Richardson said city staff’s recommendation regarding commercial recycling would likely come before the City Commission in early December. More information about the downtown commercial recycling pilot program and online signup is available on the city’s website,