City nears start of recycling program

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, June 24, 2012

City leaders are ready to roll out recycling this summer and are working to foster strong participation by Brookhaven residents.

     Residential recycling will officially be available Aug. 1, with large receptacles located at Central Fire Station on Brookhaven Street and Fire Station No. 2 on Willard Street.

     The bins will be open to the public during daylight hours. Paper, cardboard, plastic and aluminum can all be placed into the bins together without being sorted and separated.

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     City leaders hope redirecting residential garbage into the recycling system will save the city money on waste disposal.

     “It can reduce what the ratepayer has to pay,” said Mayor Les Bumgarner. “At the very least it can hold down the increases.”

     Aldermen agree that a successful program will bring benefits but add that it will require sustained effort.

     “If we get in the mode of recycling, it’s going to save us some money in the long run,” said Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates, who served on a committee of aldermen to study recycling in Brookhaven.

     The city currently pays Waste Management approximately $30 per ton for waste removal, for a total cost of about $765,000 annually, said Bumgarner.

     “In the long run, that’s not going to be viable,” said Ward Six Alderman David Phillips, particularly as the city’s population grows.

     Over the last year, Phillips has taken the lead in bringing recycling to the city, and continues to spearhead the initiative as it moves from the planning phase into the execution phase.

     “We want the best program at the least cost to the taxpayer,” Phillips said. “We’re committed to making this work.”

     Seren Ainsworth with Waste Management estimates a 10 percent initial participation rate in Brookhaven’s recycling program is likely. That works out to 500 to 700 households, said Phillips.

     Waste Management will track the tonnage collected for the city and provide statistics.

     Aldermen are hoping for a steady increase in participation rates.

     “It might start off slow but I hope it will really grow,” said Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes, also a member of the city council recycling committee. “Most people I have heard from are real excited and are hoping for good participation.”

     At Phillips’ prompting, city leaders met with Waste Management last fall to discuss recycling and were offered a recycling pilot program. For five months, Waste Management will supply one large recycling container to the city and empty it free of charge when it fills up.

     The city will pay $150 a month to rent the second container and pay $300 every time that container needs to be emptied.

     However, a grant from the Department of Environmental Quality will be covering much of the cost for that second bin, at least for a while. The city has received a grant totaling $23,900.

     “The people at DEQ are very excited about us recycling,” Phillips said.

     Waste Management will haul the recycled material collected to Sumrall and sell it to a recycler there. Waste Management will pocket the money from the recycler to cover the costs of the free pilot program.

     In order for the city to make money, it would have to sell directly to a recycler. Right now, the only way for recycling to be profitable is by reducing the city’s tonnage.

     DEQ and Phillips want to see a private recycling center go into Southwest Mississippi eventually. Phillips hopes participation in recycling throughout the Southwest Mississippi area could lure a regional recycling center.

     Recyclables are worth about $30 to $40 per ton, Phillips said.

     Eventually, Phillips said curbside recycling is what he’d like to see, but that will take some time.

     “It’s a learning process,” Phillips said.

     Once the bins have arrived and recycling is up and running, this will be the first steps toward a longtime goal of Phillips.

     “Ever since I’ve been in city government, I thought we should be recycling,” Phillips said.

     It will require a citywide cooperation to make that goal work, though.

     “The effort would be great for the whole city,” Bates said. “It’s going to take the entire city to help.”