SHERIDAN — The city of Sheridan started curbside recycling in 2015. Three years later, recycling efforts far exceed the waste going into the nearly-full landfill, providing financial savings for the city and its citizens.
Because the cost to add a cell to the landfill exceeds the small income the recycling program receives, recycling actually proves the less expensive option at this time.
“Recycling programs have a holistic view of doing good things for the environment, repurposing materials that could have other purposes,” Roberts said. “That is a benefit not only to our community but to the environment.”
The curbside recycling program joined garbage collection on the streets in 2015 and curbside recycling has skyrocketed since then. Garbage pick-up costs consumers $19.27 per month, and curbside recycling adds about $3 per month to the monthly bill. In addition to the city saving money by not expanding the landfill, citizens also see the benefit in their pocketbooks.
“The cost of recycling is cheaper than the cost of burying right now, and that’s what makes the program really effective for us,” city of Sheridan solid waste superintendent Charles Martineau said.
After consumers throw recycling into the blue bin, recycling trucks — similar to the curbside garbage trucks — drive by and empty the 300 to 500 curbside cans on the set schedule. The truck drivers then take their loads to the recycling center off Kroe Lane and dump the recycled materials right outside the large warehouse.
An employee slowly pulls piles of material into the warehouse and completes the first round of sorting by removing large pieces of cardboard and any identified non-recyclable materials. The employee sweeps the sorted material onto a conveyor belt that carries the material from the floor to the sorting line.
The sorting line — compiled of both city employees and workers from the Sheridan Workforce Center — picks out specific materials. At the end of the assembly line, only mixed paper remains, and it travels down into a large receptacle to be baled.
In 2017, sanitation supervisor Paul Larson and his crew completed 3,545 bales of recyclable materials. Since the start of the curbside recycling program, the crew has completed more than 8,000 bales. Martineau said the bales hypothetically filled about the same amount of space as the recycling center building.
“You can take this building and go set it in the landfill and that’s essentially how much space we’re saving,” Martineau said.
And space is money, Larson added, again noting the financial benefit of the program.
An employee moves the completed bales into sections designated by load weights for trucks lined out by brokers.
Brokers — the city interacts with mainly three — provide the most competitive price for the materials. Whatever broker presents the best price to Larson receives the job. Brokers organize a semi-trailer to pick up the materials in Sheridan and deliver them to a company that repurposes the materials.
By selling the products to brokers, who in turn sell them to repurposing companies, the city gains a small profit from the process.
The sorting process may prove dangerous if consumers aren’t careful about placing only the allowed materials in the blue bins.
City of Sheridan solid waste and recycling coordinator Darla Franklin said if people realized everything placed in the blue bin is going to be touched by sorting staff members, they might reconsider some of the products thrown in with the recyclable materials. In the past, the center received a dead duck, human ashes, dirty baby diapers, full paint cans, Christmas lights and cat litter mixed in with the recyclables, among other things. These items, and especially glass, pose safety hazards for the sorters on the line.
“I understand that they’re trying to do the right thing by recycling everything possible, but that doesn’t mean that it’s actually recyclable,” Franklin said.
Roberts said the facility has room to increase the program by 10 percent before needing capital improvements, such as a storage facility.
Martineau said with program increases, the city would first add manpower to the sorting line. In the last three years, Martineau and Larson brought the program to as close to maximum efficiency as possible with their current resources. For now, it works great. If the program expands much more, the city will reconfigure the system to fit the needs and will possibly look into capital investment opportunities.
“We’re always looking for improvements, but everything takes money so right now we’re doing operational changes and looking for better markets,” Martineau said.
Roberts said for now, he and the city remain encouraged by the widespread participation in the curbside recycling program. Does the program have room to improve? Roberts said yes, but he hopes to continue with slight program increases through awareness.