Last Monday night, on Sept. 27, the Kemmerer City Council met for their last meeting of the month. At first, the meeting was fairly routine as far as the agenda went. However, the real meat of the night’s meeting centered around the long-discussed cardboard recycling program.
City Administrator Brian Muir led the discussion with his own figures, various hypotheticals and also reached out to Uinta Recycling for a baseline amount of cardboard, based on the population ratios. He concluded that there would be an estimated 3 tons of cardboard removed, leading to a monthly savings of $225 to the city at a rate of $75 per ton.
Of the two hypotheticals, the first involved utilizing two large trailers (which would be provided by the landfill) placed in the community. Once or twice a month, these trailers would be hooked up by a city employee, taken to the landfill, and then returned. After everything was said and done, Muir estimated that the total cost to the city would be roughly $466.75. The alternative scenario, where the city purchased recycling cans, was not explored as seriously, given the much higher upfront costs that such a purchase would entail.
“Another thing that we were concerned about was what if people from the county or Diamondville decided that they wanted to use those cardboard trailers for their own cardboard, then we’re increasing our labor costs as well as our fuel costs again to take care of the extra trips that we would have to have if those things fill up faster,” Muir said.
Another point of contention that Muir brought up was how clean the cardboard had to be and the increased amount of time their staff would have to spend on monitoring to ensure that people refrained from using the trailers as additional garbage dumpsters.
“My understanding is that you can’t even have packaging tape on there, if I’m not mistaken,” he added.
Indeed, if there’s food grease or any kind of residue on a piece of corrugated cardboard, that piece is not able to be recycled.
Muir went on to speak about another point of contention: budgetary concerns.
“We don’t have any of this budgeted in our budget this year for labor costs…increasing our costs [due to time and a half or overtime],” he said.
“Just based on how strapped we are…it’s not our recommendation to do this,” he concluded.
After a brief disagreement about where the numbers were coming from and some alternative figures presented, a councilmember spoke up.
“Look, I get it, and I’m for it. But as lean as we’re running…maybe someone can volunteer to do it, whether it be Boy Scouts, Rotary, somebody,” he said.
“I’m also for recycling, I used to use it extensively, but I’m not for costing the city money instead of saving it money,” Mayor Bill Thek said.
The final authority for the proposed adoption of the recycling program rests with the mayor.
Councilmember Bill Price called on Jodi Dillree, who works at the landfill, to speak on the issue and offer any clarification. She quickly elaborated on why the last recycling program had been shut down, referencing how just a few years ago China had begun refusing to accept any recyclables coming in from the United States. Now, however, the pilot program’s cardboard is being shipped to Salt Lake City, before then being transported to mills in Oregon.
“It would be great if you guys could do it, but I can understand if it’s going to cost you money,” Dillree said.
After some debate over where the responsibility for recycling lay, the city or the landfill, Dillree reiterated a familiar refrain about the cardboard program.
“I’m looking at the garbage when it comes in and at least 25% of the garbage that comes in is cardboard. Everybody has 5, 6 boxes at home. So how much are you spending on your landfill bill? If your bill is $4,000 a month, then you’d save $1,000,” Dillree said.
The discussion then moved to the fact that Thek had no issue with placing both trailers in town, provided that IDAWY provide the manpower and labor for their maintenance. Dillree explained that she’d have to relay the information to her superior at the landfill.
The item was then tabled, pending further investigation.
Notably, it appeared that none of the parties involved with the discussion had reached out to anyone from Diamondville about any potential collaboration.
Despite the discussion being tabled, another individual spoke up about the recycling program.
“How many of you ever used the cardboard trailer that was there in the past? And how many people in town did? How many people would use these?” he said.
“The problem isn’t hauling the cardboard — it’s getting people to use it,” he added.
“The problem with recycling is motivating the citizens to do it,” he concluded.
Members of the council, including the mayor, were equally as pessimistic about how long-lived the recycling program would be, even if it were financially feasible.
“I think with the reactions on Facebook, that [recycling] would start out pretty energetic, but I see that waning in time.” Thek said.
“Yeah, it’s got to become a habit,” another councilmember said.
After the discussion had been tabled for good, Muir announced that the governor was coming to town, first traveling to Cokeville, and then returning to Kemmerer later that afternoon, on Oct. 1. In Cokeville, Muir announced, the governor would be dedicating a football field to two long-term coaches.
“I would also like to ask him a lot of questions myself, to try and get him to share his thoughts about the nuclear plant,” he said.
After the preliminary details for the governor’s visit were announced by Muir, the discussion then moved to closing remarks.
“I’d like to thank everyone for their well-wishes during our recent bout with COVID-19…the entire family caught it, including our exchange students. So it is out there, the vaccine seemed to do its thing in that both the wife and I were down, but not out. And thank you all very much,” councilmember Dale Hicks said.
“I’d like to express our condolences for employee Philip Torres, with the passing of his dad last night…my deepest condolences to them,” Thek said.