Another shot at recycling

Marion County has spent the last few years trying several methods to provide a recycling service for county residents. It started with a monthly route where people could bring recyclables to a trailer stop, but that required people to sort items and was only available for a couple of hours at any stop.

More recently, the county placed recycling bins in outlying communities. People could take their recycling any time, and they didn’t have to sort it. That program required the county to pay Waste Connections to pick up the recycling, though, and the amount recycled didn’t provide enough savings at the landfill to pay for the pickup fee, so the county has decided to discontinue that service.

Through these two well-intentioned missteps, it has become clear that participation in recycling increases by leaps and bounds the easier it is for consumers. Don’t make people sort their glass bottles from their tin cans. Don’t make them save it in their garages for a month before it’s picked up. Don’t make them travel 20 miles to recycle.

So what is the easiest, simplest, most convenient way to recycle? It’s curbside pickup. Make it as easy to recycle as it is to throw something away, and you might be surprised by how much is recycled. County Commissioners Randy Dallke and Roger Fleming know firsthand how slowly a trashcan fills up when you have curbside recycling — Dallke from having curbside pickup in Peabody and Fleming from when he lived in Newton.

The county isn’t in a position to offer curbside recycling, though, at least not on its own. But the cities are, particularly Marion, Hillsboro, and Florence, which conduct their own trash pickup. Marion has twice-weekly trash pickup. How difficult would it be to change to once weekly trash and once weekly recycling?

Hillsboro and Florence only pick up trash once a week, so adding recycling pickup would require a little more labor. But Peabody does just fine with recycling pickup once every two weeks.

This all would be a moot point if recycling would cost more than sending trash to the landfill. There will always be die-hards who will recycle with almost no regard to the inconvenience or cost, but the general public wants its recycling to be easy and cheap.

On Tuesday, Transfer Station Director Rollin Schmidt told commissioners that he had looked into taking recycling to Hutchinson. What he found out was that not only could the county take it to a recycling center in Hutchinson without paying a $35 per ton fee as is required to take trash to the Butler County Landfill; the recycling center would actually pay the county a small amount for the materials. With that news in hand, commissioners discussed meeting with city councils to cooperate on a recycling program. The transfer station could set aside certain days or business hours to receive recycling.

Starting such a program would include some hiccups, almost certainly. It would take time and effort to get residents used to recycling. But the demand is there. I’ve seen it when taking recycling to the transfer station on Thursday mornings — very few weeks go by when there aren’t other residents there, going out of their way to recycle.

— ADAM STEWART

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