Director of Public Services John Nilges reiterated the city’s plans to switch up its curbside recycling program in 2018.
Nilges told the Washington City Council at Monday’s administration/operations committee meeting that once the city gets its new truck, operations will switch to a new pickup style that eliminates curbside sorting. The change is not imminent, but it is expected to take place sometime in either late spring or early summer next year.
Nilges was asked if the switch was official or just being considered. Councilman Jeff Patke said he read in the Nov. 15 edition of The Missourian about the switch taking place, but he wasn’t sure if the change was still being discussed.
Nilges said the plan right now is to move forward with the switch to a new bulk recycling pickup.
“We just don’t have the vehicle to do it,” he said.
The city plans on ordering a new “trash” truck that would be used exclusively for recycling. Nilges said getting the truck to the city could be a five- to six-month process.
The new truck will allow the city to do its own version of single-stream recycling. Instead of sorting and separating items, all the recyclables will be thrown into the back of truck.
Once the truck is full, the city will take the recycling to a facility in Earth City. The items will be dropped off and sorted there.
Nilges told the council Monday night the switch is really about manpower. He said with the growth rate of the city, something needed to be done to address how the city’s curbside recycling program was operating.
After running the numbers, Nilges said the city has reached a point where it needed 1.5 additional staffers to keep running the same system. Instead of hiring new people, the city looked at alternatives.
The new bulk pickup was tested out in late April. For the test run, city workers emptied and thoroughly cleaned out one of the city trash trucks.
Crews then went on their normal routes and filled up the truck with recyclable material. The city expected to make several trips to the Earth City facility, but only ended up picking up about 4 tons of material and making one trip.
The test run was considered a success by the city. Nilges said it cut route times basically in half. Instead of crews running in eight to 10 hours, routes were done in four.
By cutting the hours that much, Nilges said the city no longer needs to hire an additional person.
All that’s needed now is a new truck. Street Superintendent Tony Bonastia said the process of getting a new truck is taking a little longer than expected.
The council agreed to purchase a new truck in February from Armor Equipment Company, Arnold, for $171,404.60. Bonastia said the company agreed to sell the city another truck on the same contract, but there was an issue with trade-in trucks.
Bonastia said the city doesn’t want to have old trucks sitting around and wants to trade them in and get a discount. In order to do that, he said it looks like the city will have to solicit new bids which will delay the purchase of the truck.
Bonastia said the new truck would look just like the other trash trucks in the fleet, only labeled as a recycling truck. He said it could be used in emergencies as a trash truck if needed.
Once the program is up and running, Nilges said residents should see a benefit as well. The Earth City facility accepts more items than Washington has traditionally taken.
Nilges said the goal is to expand the items residents can place curbside. He said, for example, residents should at some point be able to recycle cardboard.
He cautioned that won’t take place right away, but at some point the goal would be to give residents more recycling options.