Lawrence recycling services prepare for city’s curbside recycling program next month

Recycling was popular in Lawrence long before the city considered implementing a new bi-weekly curbside recycling service set to begin Oct. 21.

Local nonprofit organization Community Living Opportunities has been employing individuals with developmental disabilities at its Wal-Mart recycling center and curbside recycling pick-up operation for more than two decades. Over the past several years, more and more for-profit recycling businesses have popped up in town, as well.

When city commissioners agreed 4-1 last year to start a new citywide recycling program, then-city commissioner and current Mayor Mike Amyx voted against the proposal, saying he wished to look for ways to lessen the effect the service would have on private recycling companies in the area.

After a year and a half of planning and helping out on the city’s solid waste task force, and with less than a month to go, local recycling services are prepared for the day when the city becomes their competitor.

CLO director of day services Michael Hoffman said the company is ready for the change and will continue curbside recycling services even after the city implements its program.

“The city did a really good job of listening to our input,” Hoffman said. “I’m absolutely pleased about how they have kept invested parties in the loop.”

That open exchange was facilitated in part by a state law requiring the city to wait 18 months before implementation to give private haulers time to adjust their business plans, Lawrence solid waste manager Kathy Richardson said.

“We followed the steps required by law that says a city that has several collectors must wait 18 months for implementation to give them time to move or change their business plans,” Richardson said.

Hoffman said his organization at this point does not anticipate any job cuts. CLO currently employs 15 adults with development disabilities through recycling services.

The city’s upcoming program will provide single-stream (meaning you can dump everything into one bin) recycling system that accepts glass, paper, cardboard, tin, steel, aluminum, scrap metal and plastic containers with recycling symbols one through seven. The only things the city won’t accept are plastic bags, Richardson said.

That’s actually a plus for CLO, which takes plastic bags but can’t recycle some items the new city program can, such as butter tubs, yogurt containers or plastic with numbers 3 or higher.

CLO is checking in with current customers to see whether they want to continue services, but Hoffman said he is not anticipating many changes when the city’s new program begins Oct. 21. He said the organization has loyal patrons who support the group that gives fulfilling work to those who might not otherwise find employment.

“A lot of our customers are dedicated to the mission of our organization,” Hoffman said. “Customers will be interested in continuing that support.”

Other recycling businesses weren’t so confident, deciding to close shop when the city takes over. Deffenbaugh Industries, the largest local recycling service that Richardson said has more than 4,500 customers, will make its last round of recycling pick-ups this week.

Deffenbaugh customers are asked to leave their recycling carts on the curb on their collection days so they can be retrieved, Richardson said.

All residents should have their new recycling carts by Oct. 17. Those wishing to continue making donations to the CLO Wal-Mart recycling center can do so during its regular hours of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.