Solid waste handling needs some study

It’s easy to say things don’t work; it’s more difficult to work on the problems.

Thinking about solid waste is not exciting. But it’s something our elected officials are discussing more these days, now that some issues have arisen on how an interlocal agency between the city and county operates.
Last Thursday, members of the city council, the county commissioners and solid waste agency board members met to discuss operations of the transfer station and recycling center, which become the resting places for items we decide to discard or give another life to through recycling. Some solid waste agency board members and county commissioners have been vocal about their dislike of parts of the operation, so last week’s meeting was set to begin hashing some of it out.
Unfortunately, the county commissioners had already begun action to withdraw from the interlocal agreement that joins the city and county into a cooperative unit to provide solid waste services for county residents. They went so far as to direct the county attorney to draw up a resolution to withdraw from the agreement, which they have every right to do. However, it might have been more feasible to have last week’s meeting first before starting action to exit a program that’s been operating for 24 years, and without talking as a group with the other parties involved.
One of the concerns expressed has been cost of the operation. That is a valid concern, but anyone who thinks the operation of the transfer station and recycling center here will make money is fooling themselves. We live in a small rural area, and the volume that makes other operations financially successful doesn’t exist here. We just don’t have the big volume, one of the reasons Imperial officials decided in the early 1990s to close the landfill vs. committing to the huge financial obligations that meeting new EPA regulations required.
We residents also have responsibility for some of the growing costs. Have you been to the recycling center lately? It’s often a mess, as some people evidently think it’s just a dumping ground for anything. There are a lot of irresponsible residents who think it’s okay to throw trash and anything else in with what is accepted for recycling. When that happens it requires more hours for sorting, or the agency takes a hit on the price it receives by packaging some of the non-accepted plastics, as an example, in with the plastics that rate a higher return.
Too many people just think it’s okay to throw garbage in there, rather than pay like the rest of us to have it removed correctly. And yes, one person’s actions do make a difference.
I would strongly urge board members as a first action to consider limiting hours at the recycling center. Why does it need to be open 24 hours a day? Unless people’s action drastically change, monitoring of the recycling center more closely to prevent some of this irresponsible throwing of trash there will have to happen. And that costs money.
Are there more efficient ways to run the transfer station, too? You bet there are.
Discussion like last week’s meeting is a good start. From what I took away from the meeting, it appears the three groups will continue to meet and attempt to come up with some changes to make the operations more efficient.
We’re all in this together. Just throwing up your hands and exiting the agency is not the answer. Working together to improve the operation is.


The Imperial Republican

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PO Box 727

Imperial, NE 69033