Letter to the Editor
During the summer of 2023 Minot launched a new recycling program. There are residents of our city who feel strongly about recycling and the potential impacts it can have on our environment. Some see it as a way to lessen the load on our current landfill and to avoid potential costs for a new site. About 20% opted out of the program and had the city pick up their receptacle.
Based on numbers presented by the city at the February 5, 2024 city council meeting, only about 52% of city trash customers are putting a recycling bin out each pickup day; only 52% participating despite the newness of the program. We are shipping our recyclables to Minnesota using high-emissions transportation. The program is operating at a significant loss and is being subsidized by general fund property tax dollars. We’re losing $127 per ton, or about $300,000 per year.
According to a 2020 Columbia University study, municipalities nationwide are faced with higher recycling costs and lower commodity prices. Many have cut their programs back - over 70 ended curbside recycling and many drop-off sites closed. Some programs increased costs to residents while others limited what materials they would accept.
So, how do we fix it? First, those who choose to participate in the recycling program should bear the costs of processing and transportation. Individual choices made by residents shouldn’t create a burden for others. Pricing the recycling receptacles to cover the full cost of the program will ensure that the costs incurred by the city are covered by willing participants.
The second step is to allow all city trash customers to opt in or out of recycling whenever they choose. If they suddenly become empty nesters like we recently did, they should be able to adjust their receptacle size and start or stop recycling service because their home situation changed. Giving customers the choice in their own trash removal program creates a city we all want to do business with.
Finally, city staff should develop alternative pickup programs and fee structures to provide a more personalized experience. For example, Wednesdays could be designated for citywide recycling pickup. Tuesdays and Thursdays could be designated for household trash. If you put your receptacle out and it is emptied you see a charge on your bill. If you don’t need pickup for a week or two you would not be charged anything above a basic receptacle fee. The collection data is already monitored, so charging for actual usage makes the most sense.
Hoping for better commodity prices and changes in resident behavior will not solve the poor economics of the recycling program. It can be saved, but residents need options that are priced accordingly. Continuing to subsidize the program with property tax dollars is the surest road to failure.
1607 13/12 St SW
Minot, ND 58701