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City of Minot continues move toward curbside recycling

Minot continues moving toward curbside

Jill Schramm/MDN A City of Minot garbage truck collects waste from a Hiawatha Street neighborhood in August. The city council is moving toward eventually adding curbside recycling waste collection schedule.

The financial outlook in the recycling market perked up this past year, even as the City of Minot proceeded with plans to construct a recycling transfer station as a first step toward curbside pickups.

The city opened bids Tuesday on a landfill entrance improvements project, which would move the entrance to the south end of the landfill. Farden Construction was the low bidder at $955,685. The city also will open bids Thursday on a construction of a transfer station at the new entrance, estimated to cost $3.55 million.

The intent has been to construct the transfer station by next fall, but due to delays and costs associated with building supplies at this time, the time line could be pushed back, said Jason Sorenson, the city’s assistant public works director. He noted a recycling program won’t be implemented any quicker in finishing the building next fall as opposed to spring or early summer of 2023.

Sorenson also reported to the council on an improved financial picture surrounding recycling. During discussions by the council in 2019, the city was looking at a recycling processing fee at a Minneapolis recovery facility of around $76 a ton. The rebate on the material was about $60, leaving the city with a $16 out-of-pocket cost.

Currently, the processing fee remains at around $76 but the year-to-date average rebate per ton is $160, netting the city money.

Sorenson said those prices reflect a recycling program that excludes glass. With glass, the rebate would be less.

According to operators of the Minneapolis recovery facility, Sorenson said, the rising prices are a result of changes in the industry. In 2017, China passed a national policy that set an extremely low contamination rate for imported recyclables and restricted import licenses.

“That resulted in a huge influx of domestic supply and then really no end markets to take it to,” Sorenson said. “All of that cheap supply has prompted investment here in the country, and there are more processing plants that have been built.”

The long-term investments encourage a long-term financial benefit to the industry, and there’s continued pressure from consumers to buy materials with recycled content, he added.

In the short term, COVID-19 disruptions are expected to normalize and bring prices down somewhat, he said.

“But from the people I’ve been talking to, they think that we’re probably seeing the bookends of recycling commodity prices. We’re probably at a high now, and they think we’ve probably seen the low from the 2017 to 2020 area,” Sorenson said.

The cost analysis for a Minot recycling program in 2019 showed a residential garbage increase of $3. Currently, about a $1.50 increase would be needed to fund the program

An annual utility rate survey covering nine states, including North Dakota, showed 88% of the 100 responding communities operate recycling programs, with an average participation rate of about 72%. Also, 42% of communities with recycling charge a separate fee for recycling, with the average fee at $5.60.

Sorensen said several decisions remain to be made regarding curbside recycling, such as pickup frequency and type of recyclables permitted, which will affect costs.

“A lot of those details can be developed over the next year and a half as we build that (transfer) facility,” he said.

Another matter to be discussed is how to involve area communities that deposit garbage in Minot’s landfill in recycling programs.

“If we’re going to be serious about recycling, then we shouldn’t be the only one doing it, and we should try to make sure that everybody who’s bringing trash to us is doing it,” Sorenson said. “There’s some communities that it makes sense for them to do curbside programs. Some, maybe there’s drop-off locations. I think there’s a lot of opportunity there to offer this to the larger region and figure out how to make it work.”

Minot City Manager Harold Stewart raised questions he hears from the community about public versus private-sector recycling.

Stewart added that feelings of Minot residents fall on both sides regarding whether the city should offer curbside recycling.

Sorenson responded recycling won’t make a difference on landfill waste volume unless it is operated on a large scale and is accessible and convenient. A curbside, citywide program provides those advantages, he said.

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