Overland Park recycling schedule to stay weekly, for now

Waste Management asked for Overland Park recycling to be picked up every other week as a way of increasing efficiency when the value of recyclables is sagging. Residents would be able to trade their 65-gallon containers for 95-gallon ones and could get two of those. File photo.

A proposal to switch recycling collection to every other week found little enthusiasm among Overland Park city councilmembers, who say they have been fielding inquiries from residents since cards about the idea were mailed a few weeks ago.

None of the six members of the city council’s Community Development Committee had favorable words for the idea after it was presented Wednesday by John Blessing, public sector manager for Waste Management.

“At this point I don’t know why I would be supportive of considering this action at this time,” said Councilmember Curt Skoog. “The reaction you have created in the community has not helped your case.”

‘New normal’ for recycling industry

Waste Management asked for recycling to be picked up every other week in Overland Park as a way of increasing efficiency as the value of recyclables has sagged in recent years.

The company made a similar pitch to Lenexa in December. City officials there also expressed skepticism about decreasing the frequency of pickups.

Blessing told Overland Park councilmembers Wednesday that residents would be able to trade their 65-gallon containers for 95-gallon ones and could get two of those in order to accommodate the longer times between pickup days.

To make things clearer, the company would give residents a calendar showing which weeks would be their recycling pickups, he said.

The recycling business has been in turmoil since China decided in 2018 it would stop importing U.S. trash in response to the trade war.

“There is a new normal in the recycling industry with commodity values being 50% of what they used to be, with China vowing to get out of the market this year. The demand is low and the supply is high and that is a dying model for any business,” Blessing said.

In the meantime, processing costs have jumped 30%, he said.

Picking up recycling less often would allow the company to save money for processing and prevent higher costs being passed along to residents, he said.

But making that change requires a new ordinance, an idea that committee members were not supportive of on Wednesday.

Residents oppose change

Councilmembers said residents have been calling them, overwhelmingly opposed to the change. Many have told the councilmembers that they don’t have room to store the bigger containers in a way that meets city code restrictions.

That’s particularly true in the northern part of the city, where houses and garages are smaller, said Councilmember Holly Grummert.

There are few homeowners associations in that part of the city to help iron things out between the hauler and residents, she added. Those residents are paying a higher price for collection and would be forced to call the company with their questions, she said.

“I don’t see how this is going to enhance recycling for us,” she said Wednesday.

Councilmembers Chris Newlin and Faris Farassati said even the larger containers are not sufficient for many families they’ve talked to, who report overflowing recycling bins each week. Newlin said it might discourage recycling, which is something the city is trying to promote.

Blessing said other cities that have gone to the every-other-week schedule have not reduced their recycling. In fact, he argued, those residents have done a better job of cleaning out the recycling because it will be stored longer on their properties.

The discussion ended with no direction forward from the committee.