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Gandy: Recycling a ‘Catch-22’ with slim budget

January 7, 2013

As Starkville marks the third year of its recycling program, Sanitation and Environmental Services Director Emma Gandy said she is encouraged by the number of residents who are signed up for curbside pickup and hopes to see that number grow, but more participation means more money spent on carrying it away, which eats more and more of an already slim department budget.

At the end of the 2012 fiscal year, the department’s total budget was $2,799,174 — $137,174 more than the $2,662,000 budgeted for the department this fiscal year. Only $65,000 of that is budgeted for curbside recycling pickup. The city contracts out with Jackson-based Waste Management to pick up recyclables once enough material is collected.

Approximately 1,700 to 2,000 residents recycle, which Gandy says is a sign of growth in the program, but the small figure budgeted is quickly eaten up as more recyclables are collected, Gandy said.

“Recycling puts me in a Catch-22. We want more people to sign up, but the more people sign up … the more we have to carry off, which means the more we get charged for removal,” Gandy said. “If we go out and continue to increase recycling, the possibility could be there that we go over budget.”

Currently, residents whose garbage is collected on Mondays and Thursdays can have recyclables picked up on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, while those who receive Tuesday and Friday garbage collection can have their recyclables collected on the second and fourth Wednesdays.

Gandy said she wants to see more people participate, but the department and city will have to determine in the near future how curbside recycling can continue to be provided as a free service.

One option could be to cut back on time workers spend picking up garbage and reallocate the it to be spent on recycling pickup, but there isn’t enough participation in recycling yet to consider the change, she said.

“At this point we’re going to have to look at an option that is going to allow us to continue services at no cost to citizens. We want them involved and we want to suggest them do decrease garbage and increase recycling,” she said. “A reduction in one would free up some funds, but there are not enough participating in recycling to reduce garbage pickup days. It would be nice if we could get to that point. It would be nice to get in a position where we’re not putting as much in the landfill and recycling more, but we’re just not at that point yet.”

Though the department received a two-year, $13,500 grant last month to defray solid waste code enforcement and is applying for more grants, action from the board of aldermen is needed soon to budget not only more for recycling but for equipment maintenance and fuel costs if the service will continue to be a free one.

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