It has been an eventful year for recycling in Barton County and the future looks to be so as well, with plans that may include curb-side pickup, said Jon Prescott, executive director of Sunflower Diversified Services, which provides an assortment of recycling services for the area.
An enthusiastic Prescott Monday morning gave a report on local recycling grant outcomes to the Barton County Commission. In 2018, the commission granted Sunflower $15,000 for recycling with an understanding that the funds would be utilized for local recycling programs.
“We’ve got a lot of things we’re working on,” he said. “It’s exciting.”
“Recycling overall is up about 200,000 pounds since 2017,” he said.
“We’re looking at expanding to curb-side pickup,” Prescott said. “There is a huge interest among young people.”
Looking at the future, “that is something I am really excited about,” he said. There is a lot of interest in and passion for recycling among Millenials and the local Barton County Young Professionals organization.
The YP group surveyed its membership and there was a 98 percent response rate overwhelmingly supporting such a move, he said. And, over half said they’d be willing to pay $15 per month for such a service, which would be crucial for such a plan to work.
Some have joined a committee Sunflower formed that also includes County Administrator/Solid Waste Director Phil Hathcock and Great Bend City Administrator Kendal Francis, and others.
Unruh Brothers Trash Service is willing to be involved, and already have the necessary equipment. They would run recycling-only routes.
In fact, the Unruhs approached Sunflower and are willing employ Sunflower clients on days they run recycling days.
Sunflower is also pursuing grants to help with this effort.
Other highlights of Prescott’s report included:
• “We also want to take advantage of the transload facility,” he said. Now, a Hutchinson company trucks the materials from Great Bend, but rail is much cheaper.
Sunflower is looking at putting recyclables on a train and shipping it to a large processor in Birmimgham, Ala. This would also eliminate the middle man from the equation.
“We would get better revenue than we are getting now,” Prescott said.
They do need a transfer station. In curb-side pickup, materials are not sorted, so a large building is needed so the items can be dumped onto the floor to loaded into a truck or bailed and put onto a rail car.
The materials would be sorted by the processor using “MURF,” or a material recovery facility that sorts automatically, he said.
• Also new this year is the recycling trailer located at Williams and 18th streets.
“We had the recycling center way out on west 10th,” Prescott said. “And we had a lot of people say it sure would nice if there was a location in the central or eastern part of town.”
It is owned by the City of Great Bend, but Sunflower maintains it and services it.
“We scheduled it to be picked up once a week,” he said. But, it has been so popular, they are having to haul it off every other day.
He said he gets calls from people who want to use it, but it is full.
“I think that we have a lot of people on the eastern part of town that never recycled before are starting to,” he said. And that is the whole idea.
“So now, we are shopping for a second recycling trailer,” he said. It will be parked in the same city-owned lot.
• “Education is critical,” Prescott said of recycling efforts. “I think there is a lot of education that is needed in Barton County.”
They are going to start with the schools, he said. “We are going to start a recycling education program this fall.”
They plan on presenting programs to the students. These will cover such topics as the importance of recycling and what materials can and can’t be accepted.
“If you teach kids, you change the future, you changed the next generation,” he said.
• “Glass recycling has really boomed,” he said. “We have turned that program around.”
In 2108, they processed 144,000 pounds of glass. In the first quarter of this year, they’ve handled 10,000 pounds and have 7,000 pounds waiting to be pulverized.
The county has purchased 20 tons of the glass to be mixed with rock for surfacing blacktops. Now, Sunflower is reaching out to other counties.
• Last year, he said, Sunflower started educating business about its shredding services. “We are pushing very aggressively for businesses that need recycling to seriously consider us.”
There are other companies that do this, but they hope local businesses will opt for Sunflower, he said. “We are starting to get a lot of interest.”
Sunflower has already had some big shredding jobs come their way by the trailer load, one from as far away as Garden City.
• The 200,000-pound increase in recyclables excludes electronic waste, Prescott said. Currently, it is taken to Tech Inc., an agency like Sunflower in Hutchinson, for processing.
It takes special certification to handle e-waste, he said. Tech has that, but Sunflower is looking into what it would take to become certified.
• It had been offering a free pickup service to 341 businesses. “We just can’t do that anymore,” he said.
The agency has just recently implemented a monthly $12 pickup fee for these commercial customers. Most of the customers said they believe in recycling and were fine with that, and were surprised it took this long for there to be a charge.
“We just can’t continue because of the tariffs,” he said. “The price of recyclable materials is way down.”
• Some of the agency’s equipment getting old, and Prescott said they are looking at starting to replace some of it on a gradual basis.
Barton County Commission meeting at a glance:
Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Monday morning:
• Accepted the resignation of Dustin Daniels as Independent Township clerk. County Clerk Donna Zimmerman said Daniels was a write-in candidate who won but declined to take the post, so it has been open since January when his term would have started.
• Appointed Bridget Beran to fill the vacancy left by Daniels’ resignation effective in April. Zimmerman said it took a while for the township to find someone willing to accept the non-compensated job.
Beran accepted in March, but could not be officially appointed until she moved into the township. The term expires in January 2023.
• Heard a report on the local recycling grant outcomes from Sunflower Diversified Services Executive Director Jon Prescott. In 2018, the commission granted Sunflower $15,000 for recycling with an understanding that the funds would be utilized for local recycling programs. The funding was paid, in full, from the Solid Waste Budget.
• Heard an update on the Golden Belt Veterans Memorial, located at Golden Belt Memorial Park north of Great Bend. Barton County is currently in the process of working on the fourth stone for the memorial. Side One was purchased by the Hoisington VFW 7428 when it closed. Side two is for general use, County Works Director Darren Williams said.
• Approved a resolution regarding the 2019 tax sale, rescinding an earlier resolution adopted Jan. 28. This revises certain language of the earlier resolution and authorizes the county treasurer to determine the tracts subject to the tax sale, which is allowed by Kansas statute, County Administrator Phil Hathcock said.