The City of Lawrence has begun signing up businesses for a pilot single-stream recycling program, but it still needs more than 20 additional businesses to participate if the program is to move forward.
Thirty businesses need to sign up to launch the pilot, which is available in south Lawrence and downtown and costs either $44 or $130 per month. So far, Solid Waste Division Manager Kathy Richardson said that five businesses have signed up.
The city sent out letters to businesses in the two pilot areas one month ago, and Richardson said the city sent out additional promotional postcards about two weeks ago. The deadline for signing up is March 30, and Richardson said it’s too soon to say what the interest level is and whether the city will meet the minimum requirement of 30 participants, which represent 8 percent of the businesses.
“We won't know until the end of March,” Richardson said. “There is definitely a lot of questions and interest in the program, I can tell you that, but we won’t know for sure if we’re going to meet that 8 percent until we get closer to the deadline.”
In addition to the five businesses already signed up, Richardson said that about a dozen businesses have indicated interest in the program. She says city staff has been in communication with those businesses to answer questions about how the program will work.
The city already operates a citywide residential single-stream recycling service — where households are charged a small fee whether they recycle or not — but city staff has said that model wouldn’t work for businesses because the amount of recyclables generated is too variable. In January, commissioners approved the voluntary commercial recycling service, despite some concern that the service’s price tag will discourage businesses from signing up.
The pilot program will cost a downtown business about $130 per month for six days per week of pickup. Fees for businesses in the south Lawrence pilot area, located mostly on south Iowa Street and 23rd Street, will be about $44 per month for collection twice per week. Based on feedback from businesses, the pilot program will also include ways to recognize businesses for participating, such as decals for storefronts, flyers and social media or other online postings, according to the business plan for the pilot.
The fees are set to recover all costs for the city as long as 15 percent of businesses sign up, according to city calculations. When the commission approved the pilot program, the city indicated it would go forward with the program as long as 8 percent of the business from each pilot area sign up, equal to about 18 downtown businesses and 12 south Lawrence businesses.
In original discussions, the sign-up deadline was going to be mid-March, but the date was adjusted to March 30 before any of the mailings went out. The pilot program is scheduled to run for eight months, May through December. Richardson said the city will decide after the sign-up deadline whether the pilot will occur as planned.
No matter the outcome, citywide commercial recycling will get further discussion at City Hall. When the commissioners voted to approve the business plan for the pilot program in January, they also agreed that if the pilot is not successful, they will change the model as opposed to giving up on the idea of commercial recycling.
More information about the commercial recycling pilot program and maps of the two pilot areas are available on the city’s website, lawrenceks.org.