The city of Mitchell’s now-underway single stream recycling program aimed at increasing participation has caught the eyes of Gov. Kristi Noem and the state of South Dakota.

On Jan. 3, Noem and the Board of Water and Natural Resources awarded Mitchell with a $663,000 grant that will help assist the city to fund its implementation of the new single stream recycling program that began Jan. 6. The grant comes from the Solid Waste Management Program and is being administered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“Effective solid waste management and strong recycling programs are necessary to properly manage our waste stream and protect the environment," Noem said in a statement. "Having modern, reliable equipment and single stream recycling helps our landfills meet this goal.”

Public Works Director Kyle Croce spearheaded the city’s recycling transition to increase participation and reduce the amount of recyclable items filling up the city landfill. Considering the switch to single stream is estimated to cost $1.095 million, Croce said securing the grant will help cover roughly 50% of the costs.

City residents who have their garbage collection scheduled on Monday and Tuesday of each week were the first to have had their recycle carts picked up by the city on Jan. 6-7, while residents with a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday garbage schedule will have their blue recycle carts collected for the first time starting this week. Recycling collection will take place every other week, following the same schedule as residents garbage collection schedule.

Single stream recycling is a method that entails participants placing all recyclable items in a bin or cart, and the items are then collected and transported to a facility known as an Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where they’re sorted and processed. Under the new program, the city of Mitchell’s Street and Sanitation Department will be tasked with operating a collection truck to pick up the 64 and 96-gallon recycling carts, followed by transporting the recycled items to Millennium Recycling out of Sioux Falls.

Croce has estimated a total of 2,400 tons of recyclable items to be collected in 2020, which equates to 240 trips between Mitchell and Sioux Falls at $400 per trip. That would bring the city's total fee to roughly $96,000 for 2020.

“This is a great contribution from the state, and we are very appreciative,” Croce said of securing the grant. “The grant will help cover a significant amount of costs with the recycling program, and it shows the state is committed to our efforts of helping the life of our landfill and environment.”

The cost of implementing the recycling revamp primarily includes the purchase of a collection truck, payloader, new recycling carts and a tractor and trailer to haul the recycled items to Sioux Falls. The grant funds will be allocated to some of those overhead costs, along with assisting the city’s purchase of a new landfill compactor, a piece of equipment used to force the air out of solid waste and garbage to minimize windblown debris.

“We’re trying our best as the city to utilize all of the funding sources out there, and this minimizes the impact of what our Mitchell residents have to put forth,” Croce said.

The change comes after the Mitchell City Council ended the city’s contract with Dependable Recycling, the Aberdeen-based company the city previously contracted for recycling collection since 2005. The city was paying Dependable $23,800 per month. But after a number of residents reported various issues they had with the company, including not collecting enough recyclable items that have been placed in the bins, Croce searched for an alternative, leading him to the single stream method.

With the first full week of the recycling program in the books, Croce said the community has responded in a big way. Participants having the ability to place more recyclable items in the new 64- and 96-gallon recycling carts equipped with rolling wheels, Croce said, helps make for more accessibility than the previous 18-gallon bin that lacked wheels.

“We’ve had great participation so far, and it all comes down to the community members who choose to recycle,” Croce said. “I think there was also a serious need to provide a better recycling service, and there was evidence that people were not happy with the past service. And we are committed to providing the best services for our citizens, while hoping the recycling program boosts participation.”