County recycling decision confuses many

Last week’s decision by the Lyon County Board to not contract with recycling firms because of the high bids they submitted.
They voted instead to put $150,000 in roll-off containers and to advertise for someone to operate the program.
This would essentially eliminate pick-up recycling and make it incumbent on residents to distribute their recycling.
However, Environmental Administrator Roger Schroeder Monday said, “In response to current cost of recycling Lyon County has opted to re-evaluate our recycling program; seeking methods to control the cost to residents.”
Also on Monday, the Minneota City Council took up the issue of recycling.
Taylor Williamson of West Central Sanitation recycling service in Willmar appeared before the council and asked if they were interested in having a service in Minneota.
He indicated he didn’t come with a rate structure, but instead wanted to get an indication of interest by the city.
The Minneota City Council, like many other Lyon County agencies, were taken aback by the county’s sudden action. They said they will consider options.
Also on hand were Jason and Jeff Olson of Olson Sanitation, Minneota’s current recycler. Jason Olson said, “We have worked with you a long time and we’re not going to leave you hanging.”
The council responded by saying they feared people would throw their recycling in the garbage if no program is available.
The Olsons have been in the recycling business for over 30 years.
“We’ll see what the county does,” said Olson, adding, “We’re willing to work with you and get you through this. If it comes to it, we’ll come in and pick it up.”
“The market is flooded (with recycling) and nobody is taking it,” said Olson.
“Hopefully they (county) will figure out something short-term,” he added,

History in the county ....
Schroeder said, “This past June Lyon County received notice from the current recycling contractor of the contractor’s intent to sever the existing recycling contract.
The County quickly initiated the process of requesting proposals for the continuation of recycling services. Those bids were considered at the August 20 County board meeting.”
He added,  While he didn’t come with a proposal, he said he came to see if there was interest in the community. “There’s a still a lot of questions but we’re trying to get ahead of it,” he said.
Last month the County Commissioners faced bids for recycling services that were more than double the current cost of service; from a current cost of $306,780 annually to $644,657 annually to continue the same level of weekly service.
A lower-cost alternative was also presented in the bids that would reduce the frequency of service, but even that cost was over half a million dollars annually.
“We all believe recycling is the right thing to do, but we also believe controlling cost is the right thing to do.
“Such is our current challenge,” said Schroeder.
 He said, “Nationwide, the recycling market is in shambles. Recyclable material that used to have value (worth $46 per ton in 2016) we now have to pay to get rid of (currently $37 per ton). “This $83 per ton difference results in additional cost of $175,000 to the County recycling collection and processing.
According to Schroeder, There are numerous factors influencing the current state of recycling markets; including the United States losing major buyers of our recyclable commodities.
“Most industry experts do not see recycling markets returning to profitable within the next 3-5 years.”
 At this time Lyon County will maintain all 14 existing community recycling sites in towns and cities throughout the County.
Residents who are accustomed to curbside service are encouraged to utilize these community recycling sites in the same way that residents who do not have curbside service have been using for decades, according to Schroeder.
 With the current contract set to expire September 27, and with the high bid prices no longer being considered as appropriate options to pursue at this time, changes will be made in stages as time and revenue allow.
“At this time our priority to is assure recycling sites are accessible to all residents.
“We will continue to evaluate market conditions and look for opportunities to rebuild the recycling program going forward,” hesaid.
 After noting the county board received several comments on the issue, Schroeder said, “We appreciate the passion our residents have to benefit our environment through recycling, and appreciate those who have respectfully shared their views.
“We will continue our conversations that lead toward reaching a solution that is both cost effective, and beneficial to the environment.”

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