Cleaning up recycling and its protocols

Published 11:52 am Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Recycling procedures may get recycled along with some of its refuse in favor of something better.

Nederland City Council met on Monday to discuss, among other topics, its plans and possible actions for the city’s recycling program.

“There have been issues with the contractor and keeping up with their pickup schedule,” Chris Duque, city manager for Nederland, said during the meeting. “They missed some pickups over the Christmas holiday.”

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The designated recycling area with dumpsters is located in the parking lot of the Market Basket on 27th Street. Over the course of a 10-day period, trash had accumulated to a startling amount.

“It was pretty bad. The property owner was not happy with how things went,” Duque said.

According to Duque, city officials ended up going to the area and cleaning it up due to how bad it had gotten. As Duque reminded others, this had to be done on double time due to holiday hours.

Duque said the city is speaking with the contractor to try to get the issue fixed.

“There’s a very high demand for this service,” Duque said of the city’s recycling program. “The demand is there for the service. We just have an issue when it comes to reliability with the contractor.”

Supporting the service was a concerned Nederland citizen who attended Monday’s meeting and argued in support of it.

In discussion of how to proceed and improve upon the recycling area, Duque and others suggested placing fencing and security cameras at the area.

“It’s open 24/7 and 365 days of the year,” Duque said. “That’s part of the problem. I think we need to do education with the public.”

In a follow-up interview, Duque elaborated on the recycling issue and where a possible future site could be set up.

“We want to use the existing land that we have on Hardy Avenue. That’s where we have our sewer plant and public works building,” Duque said.

“During Christmas and after, we have this area where we allow people to drop off their Christmas trash and set aside an area for Christmas tree drop offs.

“We kind of want to use that as a template to set up a location in that same area where we could have those dumpsters placed and an area where the contractor can come haul it off. But we want to be able to fence it.”

Duque echoed the previous day’s suggestion of security cameras and restricting hours to the area.

“We don’t think we’ll continue the 24/7 365 access to the dumpster. That’s part of the problem,” Duque said. “We have to manage those hours and make sure to educate people that these will be the hours.”

Duque acknowledged that there is already a risk of people illegally dumping out there without having it fenced off.

“There are other sections of town where we’ve had illegal dumping and where we’ve had to place signage to stop people from illegally dumping trash on the side of the road. There are already existing ordinances against illegal dumping.”

According to Duque, security cameras would be put in place to help prevent such transgressions in the proposed area.

“Recycling is a very important service. I strongly fought to have it brought back.”

Duque acknowledged the financial cost of curbside recycling versus a drop off location.

“I understand the economics of it don’t add up as far as curbside recycling,” Duque said. “Back when Nederland had curbside (recycling), the use wasn’t there; the demand wasn’t there.

“We used past community surveys to gauge that service, and the response had been nope.”

Duque said that if residents wanted to do it, many wanted to do it for free; and that was not feasible for contractors.

“The basic economics of the recycling business has changed over the years,” Duque said. “For example, the demand for cardboard isn’t what it used to be.”

Duque commented on the logistics needed for such a citywide effort.

“I think it’s a beneficial service, but there aren’t that many people interested.”

Duque cited Beaumont as an example, where the city’s population is multiple times the size of Nederland; yet, they still struggled to get a fraction of that population to sign up for curbside recycling.

“When we looked at curbside recycling, there would have to be neighborhoods close to each other and interested in doing it,” Duque said.

He cited a hypothetical of two neighborhoods being interested in curbside recycling, but they would then be located across town from each other at opposite ends.

“The contractor would have to take the time and the cost of fuel into it,” Duque said. “The cost associated with the company would not make it affordable. That’s the reason curbside (recycling) hasn’t been an option.

“There’s such a low demand that if you forced curbside service onto others, it wouldn’t be fair to them.”

Still, Duque was quick to point out the benefits of Nederland’s recycling program.

“It has helped,” Duque said. “I think it has helped other people who are recycling (because) their garbage cans are half-full because so much of what they’re throwing out is being recycled instead.”

Duque said his wife recycles and he can see the difference it makes in their trash output.

“We have one can and it’s barely full. We have at least three recycling bins at any one time.”

According to Duque, recycling reduces the city’s landfill cost and solid waste operating cost.

“The savings we made on our landfill would be for the contractor to do the recycling. It’s almost a wash,” Duque said. “I think it’s actually helping; it’s not costing people more.”

In addition, Duque expressed a desire to educate the population on recycling.

“It’s an environmental positive; it’s a financial positive. We need to beef up an education campaign to do this more and to do it the right way.

“It’s going to be part of our initiative — to be more proactive in this regard.”