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City of Bismarck launches curbside recycling program:

BISMARCK — North Dakota’s capital city is taking another crack at curbside recycling, and this time city officials are optimistic the program will stick.

“We’re all excited. This is a time that we’ve been waiting for, and it’s finally arrived,” Service Operations Director Jeff Heintz said Tuesday.

Bismarck tried a curbside recycling pilot program in the mid-1990s, but it fizzled when participation and collections kept dropping.

Heintz said the pilot program wasn’t citywide and a consultant deemed the monthly pick-up schedule too infrequent. The program also required sorting recyclables, which was cumbersome, he said.

“Now, it’s a single-sort system, which is much easier,” he said. “And what they’re finding across the United States is this really increases your volumes. People don’t have to go through the process of thinking, ‘Which container does it go in?’ “

On Monday, contracted hauler Waste Management began delivery of about 12,000 green recycling containers with yellow lids to residences throughout Bismarck. The 96-gallon bins will be emptied every other week on residents’ regular garbage days, starting March 31.

Residents will pay an extra $3.81 on their monthly garbage bills for the curbside service.

Because of pushback from some who didn’t want the service, the city gave residents the choice of opting out, and about 20 percent decided not to participate, Heintz said. New residents won’t have that option, and in 10 to 20 years he expects most of the city will be participating. The city will continue to offer nine drop-off sites for recycling.

Of North Dakota’s four largest cities, Bismarck is the third to add curbside recycling.

Grand Forks was the first, starting its mandatory-inclusion curbside program in 1990 and moving to a single-sort system in 2003.

Fargo residents still must sort their recyclables. The city launched its voluntary curbside program in 2001 and now has a participation rate estimated at 67 percent, after dropping its $3 monthly charge in 2009 when the city switched to a volume-based fee schedule for trash collection, Solid Waste Utility Director Terry Ludlum said.

Minot does not offer curbside recycling. A consultant is looking at recycling alternatives as part of an update to the city’s landfill master plan slated for completed in July, Minot Public Works Director Dan Jonasson said.

Bismarck City Commissioner Mike Seminary said the city’s curbside program is part of an overall conservation initiative that Mayor John Warford and the commission established six years ago.

It’s not a moneymaker for the city, as revenue from the curbside fee and the sale of the recycled materials will go to offset Waste Management’s costs of collecting, compacting and hauling the recyclables to the company’s material recovery facility in the Minneapolis area, Heintz said. Under the contract, the city will begin to share in the sales revenue if a recovery facility is built closer to Bismarck, Heintz said.

The long-term goal is to reduce waste and extend the life of Bismarck’s landfill, Heintz said. The curbside program is expected to stretch the landfill’s current estimated lifespan of 60 years by at least another five years and likely much longer, he said.

“That means savings for everyone, all the taxpayers in Bismarck, as well. Because once we start having to develop that next site, it becomes very expensive,” he said.

Heintz said Bismarck also is pursuing a volume-based fee structure for garbage collection that could be rolled out in the next year or two.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.