Waste Management wants less frequent recycling pickup in Lenexa, but city officials express doubt

Waste Management, owner and operator of the Johnson County landfill in Shawnee, wants to offer every-other-week curbside recycling pickup services for Lenexa residents on top of the city’s required weekly option. Above, the recycling drop-off site at the main entrance of the Johnson County landfill. File photo.

Waste Management, owner and operator of the Johnson County landfill in Shawnee, wants to offer every-other-week curbside recycling pickup services for Lenexa residents on top of the city’s required weekly option.

Lenexa city leaders on Tuesday evening heard from John Blessing, public sector manager of Waste Management, who shared the company’s hopes to change the city code and offer both weekly and every-other-week curbside recycling pickup services for residents.

Lenexa’s city code currently requires trash/recycling haulers to offer only weekly curbside pickup services for residents.

No action was taken, but city leaders say they understand that if they move forward, Waste Management would continue offering both weekly and every-other-week options until the weekly service was eventually discontinued.

Company looks to cut costs

Blessing said weekly pickups are too costly and unsustainable. He also said weekly pickups may be too frequent, as many recycling bins from Lenexa homes are either not completely full or not put out for emptying. He said Waste Management may roll out the every-other-week option across its service area in the Kansas City metro.

John Blessing with Waste Management said the company would prefer to switch all of its Lenexa customers’ schedules from weekly to exclusively every-other-week pickup. Waste Management has yet to make any final decisions, though.

Offering every-other-week recycling pickup services for Lenexa residents will result in a cost savings for Waste Management by reallocating labor and transportation toward other needs, Blessing said. He said it would also result in a reduction in the company’s carbon footprint and truck traffic through residential neighborhoods.

Blessing said Waste Management would prefer to switch all of its Lenexa customers’ schedules from weekly to exclusively every-other-week pickup, but the company has yet to make any final decisions.

“If people still want weekly recycling, first of all, we’re not the only hauler out there that would provide services, but we’ll be responsive to what the market wants,” Blessing said. “But I think that once people see the weekly recycling costs that are out there, the every-other-week option certainly would have a financial advantage to that as well.”

Concerns about every-other-week pickups

While city staff asked for additional information before making a recommendation to the city council, Community Standards Supervisor Angel Whitaker from the city’s community development department said staff is concerned that having fewer pickups could discourage residents from recycling. City staff may also have to deal with an influx of inquiries from frustrated and confused residents with any changes to the program.

“We know that the county and the cities have worked really hard to encourage and go to the recycling over the last 10 years, and we feel like this may discourage it for some families because it is just too confusing for them to remember to put their recycle bin out every other week or store a much larger [bin],” Whitaker said.

Some councilmembers also had concerns that a reduction in recycling pickup will become burdensome for avid recyclers whose bins already fill up each week.

Waste Management said it would still allow unlimited recycling pickups, although residents would be required to put all recycling in containers — and residents may have to obtain additional containers to meet that requirement. Waste Management would provide more bins at no extra cost, Blessing told the council.

Whitaker with the city shared an initial list of pros and cons if Lenexa were to switch over to every-other-week recycling pickup for residents.

Pros:

  • Less of a cost increase (presumed and undetermined) for Lenexa residents if every-other-week collection of recycling is allowed
  • Reduction in commercial vehicles on residential streets
  • Consistency with Olathe and Shawnee, which allow every-other-week curbside recycling

Cons:

  • Storage space for residents of larger 95-gallon polycarts and extra recycling containers
  • A reduced amount able to be properly stored at a residence: 65 gallons weekly (120 gallons every other week) to 95 gallons every other week
  • Confusion for residents on schedule, especially on holiday weeks or when weather modifies the schedule
  • Strain on staff who will field calls from residents confused on schedule, code requirements, etc.
  • The change may discourage recycling and its positive environmental benefits
  • Presumed cost increase remains with less service to residents

Waste Management has an informational webpage on proper recycling.

The city council will consider this item at a future meeting.