Cities expanding recycling options

Monday, June 4, 2007
Cape Girardeau City Jail inmate Tyler Borgfield moved plastics along a conveyer belt to be sorted Friday at the Cape Gir-ardeau Recycling Center. Inmates earn five dollars per hour toward their fines. (Kit Doyle)

Recycling seems to come naturally for Cape Girardeau's Huff family.

They've been recycling since Cape Girardeau started its program in 1991, putting their plastics and paper on the curb each week for city workers to pick up. The family takes its aluminum cans themselves in order to get the small amount of cash that comes with turning in aluminum.

Six-year-old Jordan Huff even wrote her principal to get a recycling program started at her former school, Blanchard Elementary.

"If you don't recycle, our communities can be a real bad place to be at," Jordan said of her reason for recycling.

Cape Girardeau's Public Works Department tries to make recycling easy for its customers, offering curbside pick-up four days a week. All customers have to do is separate their recyclables themselves, and city trucks will pick them up.

Justin Jones, left, and Jeff Garland pulled the last plastic bags out of a curbside recycling truck Friday at the Cape Girar-deau Recycling Center. Sales of recyclables covers only 7 percent of the needed budget for the recycling program. (Kit Doyle)

On Thursdays city workers average 100 to 150 stops per day and 250 to 350 on Fridays, said Cape Girardeau solid waste superintendent Mike Tripp. Tripp estimates that about 40 percent of the homes (not counting apartment building and other multi-residential dwellings) in Cape Girardeau recycle at least one time per month. The last count done a few years ago showed the city received about 3 million pounds of recyclables in a year.

And getting word out about the recycling program is easy, Tripp said -- customers are given information about the program when they sign up for trash pickup at city hall.

Jordan's father Rob Huff said the city's system worked for him -- the information on recycling was readily available.

Cape Girardeau, Scott City and Jackson all offer recycling programs; all three have recycling centers that are open throughout the week, and Scott City, like Cape Girardeau, also has a curbside pick-up program.

'Work smarter'

Cape Girardeau City Jail inmate Matt Loyd glanced through baseball cards he found while sorting cardboard Friday at the Cape Girardeau Recycling Center.

But in Scott City running a recycling program presents a challenge for the smaller public works department. Scott City public works head Jack Rasnic said about 10 years ago the recycling program was barely existent. Now a recycling center accepts materials Monday through Friday and does curbside pickup on Mondays and Tuesdays using primarily only two workers, Eddie Jaco and Jim Bollinger. The city also has several trailers in place at different locations to accept cardboard.

When Rasnic took his position as public works head, he said he was directed by city leadership to form the skimpy recycling program into one that works. At the same time, he public works staff was trimmed in half, he said.

"Work smarter, not harder," Rasnic said. "That's what it takes to make this work."

Rasnic didn't have an accurate count available of how much the city's recycling program is used, but he said the city sends out several trailer loads of recyclable materials a year.

Doing more

Jackson accepted about 300 tons of recyclable materials in 2006 at its recycling center at the city's public works complex off Florence Street, said Jackson's public works director Rodney Bollinger. Like Cape Girardeau and Scott City, Jackson notifies its water, trash and sewer customers of the recycling program when they sign up for accounts.

But City Administrator Jim Roach admits the city could do more to make residents realize the program is in place, and many of the people who use the recycling program are regulars, not new users.

"We really don't advertise or do as much as we should to try to promote it," said Roach. But Jackson does hold a customer appreciation day every year at its center when city officials take dropped off recyclables. The city also does a drawing on customer appreciation day and the winner gets curbside pick-up for a year.

Cape Girardeau has recently expanded its recycling program to include clothing, with drop boxes planned for locations throughout the city. The city might also start heating its recycling facility with used motor oil with a grant from the Southeast Solid Waste Management District, said Tripp, and is checking to see if it can start accepting electronics, as well.

Each city's program is part of its public works budget, making it difficult to determine whether the recycling programs operate in the red, said program administrators.

The programs come close to breaking even, because the cities get money for their recyclables from the companies that take the materials off city hands. And they see an added benefit from reducing the tons of waste that go into landfills, thereby reducing the price cities pay to trash carriers.

But, as Tripp says, "we're not here to make money off it." Instead, cities hope recycling will help reduce the "trash stream" and possibly beautify cities while helping the environment.

335-6611, extension 182

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