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Six months into new recycling plan, Mitchell leaders gauge progress

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A Mitchell recycling truck unloads material at the Mitchell Recycling Center in the southeast corner of the city on Wednesday. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

Almost halfway through the first year of Mitchell’s new single-stream recycling program, city leaders got a field-trip look at what’s working and what can improve.

In a special 11 a.m. City Council gathering on Wednesday, council members and city staff toured the street pickup process and the city’s recycling center off of East Havens Avenue. Along with Mayor Bob Everson, three of the City Council’s eight members were on the tour: President Kevin McCardle, Steve Rice and Jeff Smith. The tour was the only item on the council’s official agenda.

Mitchell moved to a new recycling format on Jan 1, contracting with Millennium Recycling, of Sioux Falls and ending a 14-year partnership with Dependable Recycling, of Aberdeen. The change brought a new single-stream mixed recycling format, which allowed paper products, cardboard, plastic bottles and jugs, metal cans and glass jars and bottles to all be placed together in a bin, provided they are empty and rinsed. Residents also got larger containers in which they could place recyclables.

Street and Sanitation Superintendent Kevin Roth said residents are starting to embrace the new system. The city has collected 340 tons of residential recyclable material since Jan. 1, and is on pace to recycle 676 tons per year. Mitchell collects about 11 tons per load to Sioux Falls twice a week and it costs the city about $400 per load to dump its recycled items in Sioux Falls.

On the tour, Roth showed how garbage and recycling trucks have to travel the wrong way on one-way streets in order to pick up bins and unload them into the truck. That’s because those trucks have arms that only lower on the right side. With Wednesday’s example, the truck traveled west on West Fourth Avenue coming from Sanborn Boulevard, allowing truck to empty containers from houses on the north side of the street. Depending on the time of the week, residents might have as many as three bins streetside to pick up between garbage, compost and recycleables. Roth said it means the containers have to be properly spaced apart by residents to allow the truck arm to pick them up, and truck operators have to be diligent in their jobs to pick up the items.

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“When you’re on these smaller, narrower streets and there’s a lot of parked cars and you’re going against traffic, it’s pretty congested,” Roth said.

Roth said neighbors understand that the trucks are coming and the city has been fortunate to not be involved in a crash but he said it’s not an ideal situation.

The city’s rates for recycling only are $4 a month for single-family residential containers, with no price difference between the 64 and 96-gallon containers. Apartment buildings pay $4 per unit for containers or dumpsters and commercial recycling is done through city dumpsters at $35 per month. Collections are generally made every other week and Roth said more residences are choosing to take the larger 96-gallon containers. Residents can still pay to have a private contractor pick up their recyclables but still have to pay the monthly fee.

Once at the recycling center, the discussion centered on what is accepted and what is not. Inside the roughly four-ton pile included a child’s bike, black containers for potted plants and takeout containers made of Styrofoam and hard plastic — none of it available to be accepted in the recycling process. Other items that can’t be recycled include: batteries, motor oil and car parts, hoses, fabric, diapers and medical waste, hangers, plastic toys, plastic egg containers. Plastic bags can’t be recycled either, with an exception for bags that are holding shredded paper.

“It just comes down to education,” said Roth. “The more we educate, the better off we’ll all be. But we’ve got more work to do.”

City workers sort out items that shouldn’t be recycled, routing those items to the Mitchell Regional Landfill. About eight dumpsters each week are taken to the landfill with non-recyclable materials, meaning as much as 10 tons per year are sorted back out to the landfill. Mitchell Public Works Director Kyle Croce said the city has been commended by Millennium for its efforts to presort materials before they arrive in Sioux Falls.

Roth said the city has also had success with placing dumpsters for recyclables at the Mitchell Compost Site (1400 W. Eighth Ave.) and at Hitchcock Park (1201 E. Hanson Ave.). Those are available to Mitchell and Davison County residents, with the same rules applying on what's accepted.

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Mitchell Street and Sanitation Superintendent Kevin Roth discusses the city's recycling processes on Wednesday during a tour with the Mitchell City Council. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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