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Facing challenge of changing recycling landscape

This morning the Lyon County Board of Commissioners will again take up the controversial subject of curbside recycling when it meets this morning.

Curbside recycling pickup was suddenly threatened earlier this summer when in June Southwest Sanitation gave notice it would withdraw from its current contract with the county to collect recyclables. That contract was to expire at the end of 2020.

The county then began the process of collecting bids for the curbside pickup for recycling. But when those bids came in, the commissioners were obviously suffering from sticker shock.

“I just can’t grasp those numbers,” Commissioner Charlie Sanow was quoted as saying.

“I look at the numbers … It’s astronomical,” said. Commissioner Rick Anderson.

The bids ranged from around $400,000 to $700,000 a year. The current contract is at $306,780.

So the commissioners rejected the bids and opted for the county to collect its own recycling. However, that proposal doesn’t come cheap. The commissioners voted to spend a maximum of $150,000 on roll-off containers to be placed different locations in the county so residents can drop off their recyclables. With hiring a driver and other expenses, Environmental Administrator Roger Schroeder estimated that the proposal would work for $300,000.

We wonder if that price tag will eventually rise as time goes on.

Meanwhile, both the Marshall and Tracy City councils have urged the county to find away to keep curbside recycling, even if it costs residents a little bit more than what they are paying now.

County Administrator Loren Stomberg said Monday commissioners this morning may talk about how to bring the service back after the county’s contract with Southwest Sanitation expires.

Hopefully, the county will find a way to save that curbside collection at a somewhat affordable price. And even if they succeed, the recycling collection crisis will linger for years to come. That crisis has crippled recycling programs across the nation. That’s because China, the world’s largest buyer of recyclable material, stopped accepting most scrap plastic and paper. Vietnam and Malaysia accepted some of the material China rejected, but they quickly became overrun and in some cases burned plastic material or dumped it in makeshift landfills.

Without demand, much of the materials that cities are paying waste companies to process is virtually worthless and not likely to be made into something else.

And increased costs to recyclers eventually get passed on to consumers, according to Bill Keegan, president of the Dem-Con Companies in the Twin Cities.

Keegan said while changes in the international markets continue have a big impact on U.S. Recycling, it’s not the end of recycling. He said there’s opportunities to develop a domestic market for recyclable materials. About $3.3 billion was invested in the U.S. For domestic recycling this year, he said.

And there’s another bright side to all of this —  we all might come to the realization of the consequences of living in a throw-away society and what we can do to offset those consequences. Maybe consumers need to analyze wasteful habits.

Always in a rush, some of us use throw-away plates and cups on regular basis to avoid washing dishes. We become irritated when lawmakers make us use reusable grocery bags instead of plastic bags that end up in our waterways. Some manufacturers package our goods in plastic containers that can’t be recycled.

And a lot of us don’t even bother to recycle. Everything goes into one collection container that heads to the landfill. Some of us don’t even bother to sort out non-recyclable items that go into the recycling container.

“We’re in a challenging place,” Ray Sweetman with West Central Sanitation said to the Independent.

But for the sake of the environment, we must meet that challenge any way possible. Even if that means changing our habits or taking our recyclables to a drop off site for a period of time.

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