Curbside, single-stream recycling could come to Lindsborg before the end of the year.

Curbside, single-stream recycling could come to Lindsborg before the end of the year.

John Hawk, the general manager of McPherson Area Solid Waste Utility, passed along the utility’s intent during a question-and-answer session with the McPherson Area Chamber of Commerce Community Development Committee Tuesday afternoon.

MASWU began a pilot single-stream, curbside recycling program in Inman in November.

Officials at the utility want to give the program six months to a year to determine what next steps will need to be taken to bring the rest of the county online, Hawk said.

Lindsborg has requested to be the next community to be considered for curbside recycling. McPherson’s mayor, Tom Brown, also has requested McPherson be considered for the program.

Hawk said Inman was a good community to use for a pilot program because the investment required to get the program up and running was smaller than other communities in the county.

The utility purchased 500 recycling carts, but did not need to add staff or buy new trucks to service the recycling routes in Inman.

If the program would be expanded to larger communities, such as Lindsborg or McPherson, greater investments would have to be made. McPherson has about 5,000 residential trash customers. Each recycling cart costs about $50. In addition, one or more trucks likely would need to be purchased to service the McPherson recycling routes. A new truck would cost the utility about $200,000.

In Inman, all trash customers are required to pay a $2 per month recycling fee whether they recycle or not.

Hawk said officials at the utility are still trying to determine if that $2 fee will cover the cost of the service. Hawk said it likely will not be lower, but it could be higher.

The utility receives a fee for the recyclables it takes to the recycling facility in Hutchinson. However, Hawk said that might not always be the case. The purchase price for recyclables can be volatile, he said.

For example, cardboard, which is about 80 percent of the recycled tonnage, has ranged from $190 per ton to $5 per ton in the last 12 years.

Because of this volatility, the utility can’t rely on revenue from sale of the recyclables to support the program.

True savings comes to the community from diverted waste from the landfill. McPherson County is currently pursuing plans to build a new landfill. The more waste that can be diverted from the landfill, the longer the facility will last, Hawk said.

MASWU has experienced success in Inman, Hawk said.

Residential recycling has increased by 30 percent since the curbside recycling program began.

McPherson County already has a recycling rate better than the state average — 35 percent compared to 20 percent statewide.

Because of the significant investment that would be required to bring the rest of the county online with curbside recycling, the program likely would be phased in, Hawk said.

This approach would be similar to what MASWU did when it automated its trash pickup. The first routes went online with that program in 2003, and the final routes were automated in 2008.

An even more efficient means of reducing waste is to not create it in the first place, Hawk said. Japan and some countries in Europe have reduced their waste streams by decreasing packing. For example, toothpaste might come in a tube but not in a carton.

This, however, would require a change in mindset for the American people. Packaging is used heavily for marketing and in some instances in stores to reduce shoplifting, Hawk said.