The Powell Valley Recycling Center will now be open the first and third Saturdays of each month, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., to make it more convenient for residents who use the facility.
“That should give everyone time to recycle,” Marynell Oechsner, president of the recycling organization’s board, told the Powell City Council last week.
The center is also open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Oechsner said it was difficult to get the employees to agree to work on weekends, but after some negotiations, she and Myron Heny, board vice-president, were able to work something out.
“Initially our employees were not on board with it. They have since decided they are willing to work one Saturday a month,” she said at the Aug. 3 council meeting.
However, the drop-off bins that had been available outside the center on Road 10/Tower Boulevard will remain unavailable when the center is closed. That’s because people dropping off recyclables weren’t sorting the material properly.
Mayor John Wetzel asked if the problem with the drop-off bins was that there’s “a bit of sorting” involved.
“It’s not a bit of sorting. It’s a lot of sorting,” Oechsner replied. She said that, despite posting what Powell Valley Recycling (PVR) will and will not take,
people still do not properly sort the material they drop off in the bins.
PVR employees are no longer willing to do the sorting, and the board is not willing to put them at risk, Oechsner said. She said the costs of sorting cut too far into the nonprofit organization’s budget, and they just can’t afford to do it anymore.
Wetzel asked if there’s been a drop in volume of collected materials since the center reduced its hours and stopped making bins available. His concern is that PVR is lowering its revenues too much and making the operation financially unsustainable.
Oechsner said PVR leaders aren’t sure about the numbers, because the center was temporarily closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic; she said comparisons to previous years might not say a lot about the impact of reduced convenience.
“I can’t say for sure how much recycling is not taking place, but I know we’re not taking in garbage. So that is freeing up our employees’ hours,” Oechsner said.
In 2018, she said the organization took in 782,450 pounds of material, and last year they took in 902,810 pounds. PVR leaders don’t know how much they’ve taken in until the material is baled and shipped, so they have no figures for 2020. Commodity prices were substantially lower last year, especially for cardboard, so the materials were stockpiled.
Wetzel asked about the possibility of putting out bins just for cardboard, since it’s currently profitable and a bulky item that’s harder for residents to save until they can make a trip to the recycling center. The mayor pointed out it would raise the center’s revenues if the bins were available 24 hours.
“Well, I suggested that to the employees,” Oechsner said, “and they felt that we would just end up with everybody throwing everything into the … cardboard cages.”
Wetzel pointed out that the city places cardboard bins at many Powell businesses and asked Sanitation Superintendent Darrell Rood if they get much garbage.
“We get some every time,” Rood said, adding that if there’s a large amount, they’ll talk to the offending business.
Councilor Lesli Spencer asked if the amount of non-recyclable garbage in the center’s drop-off bins grew since the COVID-19 pandemic began; Oechsner said it’s always been a problem.
“So why is it a bigger deal now than it was then?” Spencer asked.
“Because we stopped taking and [started] requiring people to sort their own stuff. And it’s working,” Oechsner answered. “So, my employees do not want to go back to the old way of doing things and sorting out moldy cans of food and dirty diapers — you name it; we did it.”
Wetzel suggested the issue was an educational problem and that if people were aware of what the center does and doesn’t accept, they’ll be more cooperative.
“Most people who are recycling are generally good-hearted,” he said, also noting that “there have been some changes out there” at the center.
Oechsner pointed out that PVR officials have posted signs and hand out flyers to people using the facility.
“People don’t read. They don’t look at the hours we’re open. They don’t look at what we’re taking and not taking,” she said.
Oechsner said that if people want to recycle, they will. Otherwise, it will go to the landfill. Wetzel said the town is set up to take all the material to the landfill, if needed, but the goal is to make recycling convenient enough that people do it.
Councilor Steve Lensegrav asked if the center could provide quarterly reports on the tonnage of material they collect and their financials. Councilor Floyd Young asked if the organization could survey people who use the facility on whether they live in Powell city limits or out in the county.
Oechsner said PVR could provide quarterly reports, and had financial and tonnage data for previous years.
“We appreciate what you do,” Wetzel said, “and hopefully we can move through this pandemic and get back to normal.”