City Street Superintendent gives overview of current recycling program
Beginning in 2014, the city of Merrill contracted with Eagle River-based Eagle Waste & Recycling Inc. in continuing the recycling program. Eagle Waste offered a “single stream” recycling service, which was not used by the city prior.
A single stream recycling service allows residents to place all recyclables in one container, rather than having to separate glass, plastic, cardboard, etc. Prior to contracting with Eagle Waste, residents were not only tasked with sorting recyclables, but street department staff were tasked with sorting any unsorted recyclables at the street department.
“All recyclables had to be separated before being set out on the curb for pick-up,” explains city Street Superintendent Dustin Bonack. “Then our staff would pick up the bins and upon return to the street department, would have to assure everything was sorted correctly. If recyclables were not sorted correctly, they would not be accepted. That system was both cost and labor intensive.
“When the city switched to Eagle Waste in 2014, it was a cost savings as we no longer had to sort recyclables here at the street department, nor did we have to ask our residents to sort items before placing their items curb-side. Aside from washing and drying plastic and glass, and a few other minor requirements, residents can now place all their recyclables in one container, and we can ship them directly to Eagle Waste in Eagle River.”
Currently the department makes an average of two trips weekly to Eagle Waste.
“Another important aspect of the recycling program is how the market has changed over time,” Bonack adds. “When the city first contracted with Eagle Waste in 2014, it was a two-year contract. At that time, Eagle Waste was paying the city $20/ton for recyclables. However, when the city renewed the contract in 2016 for five years, Eagle Waste no longer pays the city and the city does not pay Eagle Waste for receiving and processing. The only cost involved is the costs we incur to make our recycling runs up there. That has become the standard in most recycling agreements due to the shift in global markets for nations who import recycled products. I suspect when our contract is up in 2021, the city will be faced with paying for recycling services.”
Points of Note for City Residents:
Being the current contractor for recycling service, Eagle Waste & Recycling Inc. dictates requirements for recyclables received.
*It is important for residents to assure glass and plastic items are cleaned and dried before placing in recycling containers.
*Paper and cardboard items must not be wet or soiled in any way before placing in recycling containers.
*Recyclables which are unable to be cleaned, or cardboard and paper which is soiled, should be placed in the trash. There is a two-bag limit on trash collected from each residence. Stickers for additional trash bags can be purchased at Merrill City Hall for $2/each.
*To help assure recyclables are kept dry year-round, residents are encouraged to purchase a recycle bin with an attachable lid.
“The final destination of our collected recyclables cannot properly recycle items if they are wet or soiled,” Bonack adds. “So far we have been very fortunate to not have any of our recyclables rejected by Eagle Waste. In fact, we have been complemented for the overall cleanliness and condition of the recyclables we have delivered for processing. Our goal is to provide the best service we can to our city residents, in a cost effective manner. Our intent isn’t to burden our residents, or be overly difficult. But to maintain recycling service, we must follow the requirements of our contractor.”
According to Bonack, recycling and trash service accounts for approximately 22% ($451,822.80) of the street department’s current annual budget of $2,053,740.
The $2 fee for additional trash bags is used to offset the current tipping fees of $47.89/ton. Last year alone, the department spent $90,991 in tipping fees at the Lincoln County Landfill.
For questions about the city’s recycling program, Bonack can be reached at the Merrill Street Department, 715-536-4222, during regular business hours of 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.