County recycling: Not a question of if, but when

Recycling is on the way to Marion County.

The cost of disposing of solid waste continue to increase. The only way for the county to offset increases is to reduce the amount of trash being hauled/number of trips being made to the landfill. And one way to reduce solid waste is to recycle.

Many residents have been recycling for years but Marion County Commission is looking at ways to encourage or maybe even require all residents to recycle.

At Monday's commission meeting, information was reviewed regarding various options for the county.

And regardless of whether individuals want to recycle, it doesn't really matter. There's going to come a point when there won't be a choice.

"There is a law that requires counties or regions to reduce solid waste," Rollin Schmidt, county transfer station manager, said.

Marion County is a member of a regional solid waste organization and the organization as a whole has reduced solid waste, Schmidt said. Solid waste in Marion County has not been reduced but tonnage amounts have held steady or slightly increased.

The end result is less trash being hauled to a landfill.

With fuel prices skyrocketing, tipping fees and fuel surcharges also have increased, costing Marion County residents more each month to get rid of household solid waste.

Stutzman Refuse Disposal Inc. of Hesston is the most common way for county residents to have their recyclable items collected. The company offers curbside service to rural and city residents.

In Peabody, residents are charged $2.50 per month on their city utility bills for twice-a- month curbside service. Hillsboro residents are charged $1.80 on their city bills but have to take their own recyclables to a recycling center in town which generally is open a couple of days per week.

Commissioner Randy Dallke told Schmidt that he wanted to know the cost per resident for curbside service from Stutzman. Dallke told Schmidt to contact Stutzman and he would accompany Schmidt to obtain the information that he wants.

"We're not responsible for the cities but looking at a long-range plan of implementing a countywide plan to reduce the amount of solid waste," Dallke said.

Rural Marion resident Eileen Sieger and Marion resident Margaret Wilson told the commission that they supported countywide recycling and both have been recycling for several years.

They both pay the same fee of $5.50 per month for once-a-month pickup from Stutzman. They only have to separate paper products from the other recyclables.

Wilson said the recycling program needs to be easy and economical.

"Some people aren't going to want to pay for it because they're already paying $81 per year," commissioner Dan Holub said. "Some people think the $81 is going to go away when the transfer station bond is paid but it has to cover disposal."

"It could be motivation for people to know that the more they recycle the less likely we are to have to increase solid waste fees," Sieger said.

The commission discussed ways to encourage businesses in the county to recycle, particularly paper and cardboard, which would positively impact the amount of solid waste taken to the landfill.

The next stage after implementation, Dallke said, was enforcement.

"Does it lead to where there is a trash police like some communities are doing?" Dallke asked.

Holub and Hein agreed the program has to be enforced but no agreement was reached regarding how.

Schmidt presented written information to the commission. When he contacted Stutzman he was told that a two-compartment roll-off container could be provided with one section for paper and the other section for other recyclable items. There also would be an eight-yard container for cardboard which would be emptied once a week.

The cost to lease those containers would be $30 per month and $140 per load to empty the containers. There would be no charge for the cardboard container or collection.

Stutzman representatives also would be willing to set up recycling containers in cities within the county to receive recycling materials on special occasions. That cost would be $325 per setup. The cost would include a four to six-hour time for residents to bring recyclables with a Stutzman employee monitoring the site.

Another option would be to have a drop-off site similar to Hillsboro's with Marion County staff operating the site. McPherson County would provide the container and collect the items at a charge of $2,000 per month.

Another option would be a recycling trailer service provided by McPherson County. There would be a monthly fee of $325 for one or two trailers at Marion County Transfer Station or other locations as needed. McPherson County would charge $150 for each delivery and pickup of materials.

If the county chose to do it, McPherson County would accept the items for free. Marion County would have to purchase trailers at an approximate cost of $10,000 each, and a truck to pull the trailer.

The items also could be taken to Stutzman's in Newton for $5 per ton. A dump truck could be purchased and fabricated to be used for hauling.

The most complex option would be for Marion County to create a countywide, county-operated recycling program where materials are collected and marketed by the county. This would require a building, personnel, and equipment.

More information will be gathered and presented at a future meeting.