Whitefish heads to curbside recycling program

Whitefish City Council is moving forward with a plan to collect recyclable materials directly from homes.

The council last week approved a curbside recycling program, but has yet to approve an implementing ordinance and a contract with the carrier to collect recyclable materials.

It would be an abandonment of the use of the city’s central collection site at the corner of Columbia Avenue and Railway Street, which has been designated for an affordable housing project. City officials have sought to relocate the recycling center or switch to a curbside pick-up program.

“I’m pretty… excited to have a curbside recycling program in town,” said Steve Qunell, board member. “If we’re going to spend the money on this, we should be doing it the right way. We know the issues at the central site that we have now. [with garbage left at the site], and the curbside program is the best way to capture more recycling anyway. “

The board has considered the options in several meetings and held a public hearing last week on the proposed recycling program. Public Works Director Craig Workman noted that a one-flow residential curbside recycling program is one of the strategies outlined in the city’s climate action plan.

“Diverting more waste from landfills is one of the most direct strategies Whitefish can pursue to reduce the environmental impacts of the city’s consumption,” said Mr. Workman. “Implementing an engaged and thoughtful single-stream curbside recycling program can have a substantial positive impact on community waste diversion, reduce contamination issues associated with multi-stream recycling, and support community participation.”

It was estimated that setting up a new recycling site would cost around $ 183,000, and managing the site by a contractor would cost around $ 100,000 per year. The cost of the site would have been passed on to all city taxpayers; a house valued at $ 400,000 would have paid $ 37 for the first year of the central site, and then about $ 15 per year thereafter.

Asking approximately $ 262,500 per year, Republic Services was the lowest bidder for the proposed curbside recycling program with approximately 3,500 residential customers. For each pickup stop, the annual cost is estimated to be around $ 75 and the service charge will be mandatory for residences in the city regardless of use, which is similar to the current city garbage collection service. .

Workman said the proposed program is structured with user fees because an individual service is provided at each residence.

DURING THE During the public hearing, Kate McMahon, who sits on the city’s climate action plan standing committee, said recycling was the biggest issue the group had discussed.

“I want to congratulate the city for taking on the recycling issue,” she said. “It’s a big problem in the community.”

The program is configured to accept cartons and flattened cartons; aluminum, tin and steel cans; and newspapers, magazines, office paper, catalogs and junk mail.

Mayre Flowers, with Citizens for a Better Flathead, has called for plastic to be taken off the list of recyclable materials over concerns that plastic collected around the world will not actually be recycled.

“We tried to do exhaustive research and we couldn’t find any company that could commit to plastic being recycled in the United States,” Flowers told the board. “Most of the plastic is shipped overseas, and most of this plastic ends up in oceans or villages and adds to pollution.”

Chuck Stearns said a lot of people could throw plastic in their recycling bins anyway.

“I support the curbside program, but if you go for a single stream but don’t include plastic then you will have a lot of contamination because people will put plastic in it,” he said.

Chad Bauer, of Republic Services, said only # 1 and # 2 plastics are accepted because that’s what can be recycled.

“Everything we’re looking at in this program is a product that has value somewhere in the United States,” Bauer said. “None of the materials are recycled in Montana; they are all shipped elsewhere. But everything we take is mostly recycled in the United States, but some of the material can go somewhere else because it’s a matter of supply and demand, and the factories are full. in the United States, it is shipped elsewhere. We will ensure that everything we take will be transported to a recyclable facility.

As part of setting up and running the program, Bauer said the company is planning an education campaign that will explain how to properly recycle and what should be placed in the bins. A garbage container contaminated with the wrong materials would also be separated from the rest of the recyclable materials during pickup so as not to contaminate an entire truck load.

“Our drivers look for contamination, then label these bins with why they can’t be recycled and educate the customer,” he said. “At that point, the city will be notified, and for the first to two times, it’s free. And then at some point there will be a fee because there has to be a penalty for not recycling properly. “

FOR THE MOMENT, at least the city’s recycling program would only provide door-to-door pickup. Companies should contract directly with Republic Services or another contractor for recycling services.

Workman said the city and its contractor need to determine how the collection will work for multi-family residential buildings such as townhouses and apartments, including determining where containers will be placed for those properties.

Single-family homes with driveway pickup will likely receive new 96-gallon carts for recyclables.

While some have expressed concerns that recyclable containers are becoming an attractant to bears, Republic Services said properly disposed recycling should be free of food residue and therefore not be a problem.

Council member Rebecca Norton asked city staff to look into adding glass recycling and food composting to the program in the future.

Whitefish Pilot Editor-in-Chief Heidi Desch can be reached at 406-862-3505 or [email protected]

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