Written by Jerry Engler Wednesday, 30 May 2007 10:00
Rollin Schmidt believes Marion County will have county-wide recycling of solid waste materials within the next few years, and perhaps very soon.
Schmidt, who is director of the county’s solid-waste transfer station, household hazardous waste and noxious weed departments, said he is already working on a grant with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. It would provide the county with the ability to buy recycling trailers for receiving waste in the different communities, a truck to pull them around, and a baler for cardboard that could also bundle aluminum and plastics.
Schmidt’s estimated total for the grant, which may or may not be what the state awards, would be $85,855. The worth of the equipment would be $70,000, he said.
The cost-sharing grant is 75 percent state, 25 percent local. The state’s portion would be cash, but the local portion could be for “in-kind contributions.” For instance, Schmidt said, the county could be credited at $10 an hour for volunteer labor.
Schmidt will submit the grant application in June, and should hear about the outcome of the application in September. If the grant is approved, the county has a year to implement the program.
“If it doesn’t work,” Schmidt added, a bit tongue-in-cheek, “we can sell the baler.”
But he believes a program will be made to work, and the county will have recycling because all of the current initiatives in handling solid waste.
Schmidt said recycling is part of Marion County’s solid-waste plan, and of the regional plan. He predicted the Marion County Board of Commissioners will increasingly look at recycling as a way to save the county money.
The State of Kansas, along with most of the other 49 states and the federal government, is putting more grant money and impetus behind recycling as time moves on. Local, national and world demands are creating more markets all of the time for recyclables, he said.
“Plus,” Schmidt said, “it’s just the right thing to do.”
The world probably will continue to get more “green” in its attitudes, and that includes Marion County, he said.
The state not only has its CPI grants for practices such as recycling and composting, it is also pushing new grants for “E-waste. E-waste is predominantly higher-tech electronic items such as computer equipment and televisions, from which mercury, gold and other things can be recovered, Schmidt said.
He noted that convicts at Lansing State Prison already are employed to remove gold from such items—“anything to save space in landfills” and to keep more landfills from being built.
Rapidly developing nations such as China are “crying out” for raw materials. Schmidt said that from most literature available, the current competition for oil and steel is probably only the start of growing trend.
“We’re running out of resources,” he said.
Any community in the future may be sorry it doesn’t have a landfill, he said, to get in on the income that can be mined from it. The county may want to open the remaining 160 acres at the old landfill some day to get in on future commercial advantages, he said.
In McPherson’s recycling program, the community is only able to furnish a fraction of the glass needed by a local fiberglass-insulation company. Glass is becoming a high-demand product, Schmidt said.
He said McPherson sends a weekly truck to pick up recyclables from Hillsboro, where residents bring the materials to a central location. Everyone in town pays $1.70 a month for this service, “but it doesn’t mean they have to participate,” Schmidt said.
“It takes public education to get participation.”
Stutzman Refuse Disposal Inc. picks up Peabody recyclables at curbside weekly at a monthly price of $2.25 per household, Schmidt said. Again, the program is voluntary, but Schmidt noted it gets 50 percent participation when the state considers 30 percent as good.
Peabody and Hillsboro are the only towns with recycling programs in the county now, Schmidt said.
All county solid waste is handled through a fee collected from all residents of $81 per household and $132 per business. Schmidt said any recycling program probably will be operated under this fee.
Without recycling, Schmidt said, the fee will only increase—or increase at a faster rate than it would anyway. The county’s commissioners realize this, he said, when they keep a close eye on what neighboring counties are doing.
Beyond McPherson County, commissioners are keeping an eye on what Harvey County is doing with a new incinerator that will produce electricity from solid waste when it soon comes on line.
eighboring counties are also discussing building new landfills. All of these may be opportunities for Marion County to haul solid waste elsewhere to save money.
Right now Marion County gets a good rate for garbage it ships from its transfer station to Hamm Landfill at Perry, Schmidt said. The $19.14 per ton charge ends in January, followed by automatic 3 percent annual increases without further negotiation.
The commission also uses the solid-waste fee to pay a current price of $18.14 a ton for trucking to Kevin Robinson of Florence. That charge will increase as the price of fuel increases, Schmidt said.
Adding $19.14 and $18.14 makes the total price per ton $37.28. The county averages 20 tons per load and averages 35 tons hauled monthly, Schmidt said.
He said if anything the commissioners have a high interest in reducing the tonnage necessary to ship to a landfill, or to a closer landfill, because it will reduce shipping costs.
Market prices will drive the recycling program forward at an accelerating rate, Schmidt predicted.
“It will be interesting to see what happens in the next 10 years,” he said. “Who would have thought 10 years ago that we’d have $3 gasoline now?”