City switches track on recycling

In-house plans scrapped, new company hired

By Sarah Pridgeon

Though the City of Sundance had planned to create its own recycling program once its contract with Northern Hills Recycling expired, efforts to create a workable system have thrown up too many roadblocks. Instead, the city will be entering into a three-year contract with an alternative recycling company: Western Waste Solutions (WWS) of Rozet.

“I’ve taken two steps forward and three steps back with everything I’ve figured out,” said Public Works Director Mac Erickson of his attempts to create a city-run program.

“I don’t think it’s a problem of picking it up – as a city, we can do that – but containment and getting rid of it is where I’m running into big issues.”

Erickson’s investigation revealed that the only solution might well have been to truck recyclable materials along with the city’s garbage, he said, which would not have the intended effect of reducing the cost of hauling.

“I’m having a hard time making it work as good as I once thought it would.”

Mayor Paul Brooks explained that the problem was partly due to the council’s firm criterion that changing the recycling program should not raise the rates. The city was unable to find a company to take or collect the recycling at an appropriate cost.

“If we go up to about $6 or $7 per household, there are a lot of takers,” he said. “We’re really trying to keep this thing budget-neutral.”

Speaking to Joe Bunnell of Northern Hills Recycling, Brooks said that the council was still working on the details of the replacement program. Council Member Ken Denzin thanked Bunnell for getting the city as far as it has already come.

“I don’t think we knew a lot about what went on,” admitted the mayor.

“We turned it over to you and we didn’t pay a lot of attention, and now we’re trying to reverse engineer a wheel.”

A solution presented itself later in the meeting, when Dave Naughton of WWS spoke to the council at Erickson’s request to explain how he might be able to help. The company has numerous recycling programs in Campbell County, serving all the schools, the hospital and the city itself.

Naughton told the council he had put together a program for Sundance’s residential and commercial recycling that would be virtually the same as the current program. The only significant difference would be an increase in commercial rates from $5.25 to $6 for smaller businesses and a comparative raise for larger ones.

The council were amenable to Naughton’s suggestions and keen to ensure that the city’s recycling program continues.

“We’ve got a pretty successful program and nobody wants it to slide back, so it’s of grave concern to us,” said the mayor.

Naughton requested that he be offered a three-year contract, as he will need to pigeonhole staff and equipment for the program. A motion was passed authorizing the city attorney to negotiate a contract with WWS, who will begin their recycling program in the meantime and are expected to start work on April 18.

“The city doesn’t want to be in the recycling business for too long,” said the mayor.

“We want this to be seamless, we don’t want the public to lose faith.”

Meanwhile, the city’s plans to remove yard waste from the garbage stream encountered unexpected help last week when the City of Gillette offered to hand down a number of 90-gallon bins for the purpose. The mayor expressed his thanks and said the city will receive confirmation that they have indeed inherited these items after Gillette City Council approval.


What Will Happen Now?

Western Waste Solutions is expected to begin its recycling program on April 18 and very little will change for the community. Residents will now be asked to purchase and use blue bags rather than the green bins.

WWS will perform curbside pick-ups one day a week, on Fridays. The program itself will be basically the same, with all recycling collected except for Styrofoam, soft plastic and glass and residents able to place every item in the same bag.

The city may, however, implement a glass recycling program in the near future, to coincide with the opening of the transfer station.

During the gap between the old Northern Hills Recycling program and its replacement, the city will continue to pick up trash on the usual days – there will be no gap in service.

Once WWS begins its runs on April 18, Bob Queen will be travelling the route on Mondays and Thursdays in case residents are unaware of new schedule. He will leave notes on residents’ doors to alert them of the changes.

Commercial customers will have access to large dumpsters located in the alleys, all painted blue. Businesses will be able to recycle everything in these containers, not just cardboard, and do not need to bag their items as they will be collected via a rear-load truck.

Northern Hills Recycling has already begun picking up its green bins and cardboard containers.