County points ahead with recycling; Update is latest in year of changes to program

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The county board thinks it’s right on point with its continued upgrades and improvements to its recycling program.

In the latest step of an ongoing process aimed at boosting recycling, the county board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an updated point system that balances and determines how much certain types of properties pay for solid waste programs based on estimated usage.

“I think that this is as fair a plan as we can come up with,” Commissioner Mike Ankeny said. “It’s cost-effective for everyone, and I think that this is the direction that the county needs to go a this time.”

Email newsletter signup

No people from the public spoke during a public hearing held Tuesday on the issue.

Last year, the county board voted against switching to single-sort recycling and instead opted to make improvements with the goal of collecting more recyclables through the county-run, sorted recycling program.

Costs for the program

Several years ago, the county developed a service charge to manage the funding for the county-run recycling and household hazardous waste programs.

The programs are funded through special assessments paid annually along with county property taxes. The funds are based on usage or usage potential with certain scores for residences and certain types of properties.

Under the new point system, single-family residential properties will be assigned five points for non-curbside or rural recycling and eight points for curbside or city recycling. Under the old system, all residential properties were assigned five points.

After assigning points and setting the 2017 budget, county staff will then divide the annual need by the total assigned points to estimate price per point.

Improvements to the Mower County Recycling Center, including a remodel, and an estimated additional $20,000 for outreach and education on recycling are expected to increase the 2017 budget, but Mower County Coordinator Craig Oscarson estimated the cost per point will remain at about $5 per point in 2017 because this system is adding to the overall number of points.

If the cost holds true at about $5 a point, rural residents with five points will pay about $25 year for solid waste services, where they must drop off recycling at the Mower County Recycling center or rural drop boxes. City, or curbside, residents assigned eight points will get curbside recycling pickup on the first four weeks of each month for $40 a year.

“There’s some positive enhancements to the recycling program just based on the point category changes,” Oscarson said.

County commissioners say they’re pleased with being able to boost the recycling program and intake of recyclables while still doing it at a lower cost than the proposed $55-$70 that a switch to single-sort recycling would have cost.

Under the new point system, nursing homes and assisted living facilities would be assessed a point per unit, and campgrounds would be assessed a point per camp site.

Restaurants, fast food businesses and bars would each be assessed 20 points, while joint bar/restaurant establishments would be assessed 40 points.

The point system also sets up small, medium and large point scales for certain types of businesses, along with unique assessments for certain businesses.

For example, Hormel Foods Corp. would be assessed 6,000 points — the same as before — while the Hormel Historic Home and Austin YMCA would wash be assessed 15 points.

‘Making good progress’

In other changes to the recycling program, the board previously voted unanimously to add plastics Nos. 3-7 to the Nos. 1 and 2 currently accepted at the Mower County Recycling Center and to increase pickup from every other week to the first four weeks of each month.

Plastics No. 3-7 can be recycled in Mower and pickup on the first four weeks of the month will begin Sept. 1 when a new contract with Cedar Valley Services begins. As part of a new contract to collect curbside recycling, the board previously voted to give Cedar Valley time to ready for the increased need of additional recyclables.

Rural residents will still have to bring their recycling to the recycling center, but county officials say that is getting easier too.

The county is also currently updating the Mower County Recycling Center, 1111 Eighth Ave. NE, for indoor unloading of recyclables and to add outdoor drop boxes where the general public can drop recyclables off anytime.

Commissioners see the drop boxes as a key addition for the public because they’ll be available 24/7, 365 days a year. The public will no longer bring recycling into the building, which Solid Waste Coordinator Jeff Weaver called a big convenience for the public.

“We won’t have to have those wooden buildings, which are worn out, trashed, and we won’t have anyone having to come in anytime,” he said. “It will [be] 24 hours a day drop off out in the outside drop off box.”

Having looked at other counties’ recycling programs, Ankeny said that will be a benefit for the public.

“It’s a real positive for Mower County to be able to have this available, basically 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Ankeny said.

Overall, commissioners are pleased with how far the recycling program has come.

“I’m glad we’re making good progress,” Commissioner Tim Gabrielson said.

The new point system takes effect in 2017.