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Dickinson considers adding curbside recycling

Dickinson residents could soon stop dumping their cans, plastic bottles and glass into the garbage and instead recycle all of that waste if a proposed program moves forward through the Dickinson City Commission.

Cardboard that has been compressed and baled is pictured at the Dickinson baler building on Friday. (Press Photo by Sydney Mook)
Cardboard that has been compressed and baled is pictured at the Dickinson baler building on Friday. (Press Photo by Sydney Mook)

Dickinson residents could soon stop dumping their cans, plastic bottles and glass into the garbage and instead recycle all of that waste if a proposed program moves forward through the Dickinson City Commission.

Sanitation manager Aaron Praus and public works director Gary Zuroff proposed a recycling program that could save space at the regional landfill at Monday's city commission meeting.

The city currently recycles cardboard, paper, appliances, compost/yard waste, crushed asphalt and concrete, and tree/wood chips. However, if the proposed program program passes, that would expand to what is called single-stream recycling.

"This is a really exciting project," City Commissioner Sarah Jennings said at Monday's city commission meeting. "...Look at all the other communities in North Dakota that have done this. It's very successful. It changes people's lives and we need to look at that."

Single-stream recycling, also known as fully commingled or single-sort recycling, is where all paper fibers, plastics, metals and other containers are mixed in a collection truck instead of being sorted by the depositor into separate commodities and handled separately throughout the collection process. In the single stream, both the collection and processing systems are designed to handle the commingled mixture of recyclables for a reuse at a material recovery facility (MRF).

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Praus said the city previously had a recycling committee in 2010, but now it's looking to possibly bring the committee back in order to work on the project. He said the city is trying to weigh its options whether or not it's best to have a contract with a private hauler, which is what Mandan currently does, or expand services within the solid waste department, which may involve purchasing new trucks as well as compactor units and containers and increasing staff.

He said the recycling committee decided in 2010 that the city would only be able to recycle paper and cardboard because it was easiest to bale and ship out to the recycling mills and other places as it required less sorting.

"We've always had it in the back of our mind about expanding it to other services to include other products now one of your pretty much only sources is single stream, curbside," Praus said. "... The whole world is looking at going green, so it's environmentally sound."

He and Zuroff pointed out recycling could eventually save space at the regional landfill, which had a $1.5 million expansion earlier this year. Zuroff said the city of Dickinson collected more than 23,000 tons of waste in 2015 alone.

"Advantages to single-stream recycling and curbside collection is less municipal solid waste going into the landfill which saves space," Zuroff said at the commission meeting on Monday. "It can increase the life of the landfill. You might not see savings right away, but long term. You're going to get long-term savings."

Zuroff said recycling isn't cheap, however. He said the commodities the city would receive vary and it would not cover the cost to recycle. Praus estimated that the cost to Dickinson residents would be relatively low for city-wide, curbside recycling, between $5 to $7 a month, and each household would receive a separate bin to put recyclables in. However, Zuroff noted

the program would have to be mandatory in order for it to be successful.

"You can't opt out and keep it cost effective," Zuroff said.

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No matter what is decided, the items that are recycled will have to travel out of state to Twin Cities suburb Shakopee, Minn., in order to be properly sorted at the nearest MRF.

City Commission President Scott Decker said while he would like to see more numbers to make sure the program would be economical, he believes it is an important issue to raise.

"I think it is an issue that needs to be addressed," Decker said. "I'm glad it was proposed and I think for the longevity of the landfill, and the good of the environment I think we need to look at starting that recycling program."

Jennings expressed excitement for the program. She said she reached out to community members on social media and received a very positive response and feels it's her job as an elected city official to help make the community as great as it can be.

"I think we have a very innovative commission now that wants to do projects such as this," Jennings said. "... You're job as an elected official is to represent the people and I definitely gather that this is what the people want to see."

Jennings said she has spoken with leaders in Mandan who have told her that the program, which was implemented earlier this year, is going well, especially now that it is mandatory for all residents. She said while change can be difficult for some people, she believes it is an important program to start in Dickinson.

"We need to look into not producing so much methane gas into the air," she said. "Recycling really is the way to go. And I think the younger generation, we're really starting to understand that."

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