Change is on the horizon for solid waste and recycling programs in Dunn County.
A global recycling crisis has impacted the county program and the solid waste and recycling management board is proposing changes.
A special meeting with the municipalities in the county that participate in the program in attendance was held Thursday to discuss alternative business models.
“The reality is this is a very, very expensive business to run and historically we’ve not passed on the real cost of recycling and waste management in Dunn County as a whole and the time for that has changed,” Morgan Gerk, director of Dunn County Solid Waste and Recycling, said.
The collection sites were never intended to make enough money to support itself, Gerk said. The sites are subsidized through per capita fees, fees collected at the sites and the sale of recyclables.
China was the leader in the processing of recyclables until 2017. Then it made changes to the amount of contamination it would allow. The 0.5 percent contamination was something U.S. recycling processors were not set up to meet. The avenue to move recycling went away, Gerk said.
Although the board has issued a proposal, no days or times of operation changes have been finalized. Gerk said he hopes to have a plan in place by Jan. 1, 2020. The board plans to vote on the matter at its December meeting.
In the proposed site hour schedule presented, smaller sites in Connorsville, Downsville, Ridgeland and Rock Creek would be open once a week, with the day of the week alternating between a weekday and Saturday. This schedule was designed to make sure each of the sites still had available Saturday drop-off times, recycling specialist for Dunn County Megen Hines said. These sites would only be open from 1-5 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m.-noon on Saturday.
Hours at the transfer station would be Wednesdays from 5:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and on every other weekday from 5:30 a.m.-2 p.m.. The public drop-off site hours proposed are 6 a.m.-noon on Mondays, 1-6 p.m. on Wednesdays and 7 a.m.-noon on Saturdays.
Collection sites in Boyceville, Colfax and Elk Mound would be open Wednesdays and Saturdays. Saturday hours would be from 7 a.m.-noon and the collection sites would be open noon-6 p.m. on Wednesdays.
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Also proposed by the town of Dunn was a schedule in which each of the smaller sites were open on the same day of the week, without Saturday hours available.
The proposed changes in site hours and days of operation would also include a 24-hour, seven days of the week collection at an unmanned Sand Creek site.
The solid waste and recycling board has also proposed new per capita rates. Rates wouldn’t likely take affect in the new year as municipalities have already established budgets for 2020 and would need to make amendments to the budget to account for an increased per capita rate, something many representatives said they’d be unwilling to do.
An $69.34 estimated household (2.5 people) cost for municipalities that participate in both solid waste and recycling. This rate could also fluctuate based on the solid waste and recycling division’s proposed plan of adding a second hazardous materials clean sweep event, the number of attendants at each site and whether the site hours and days are changed. The board proposed three attendants at each of the sites in Boyceville, Colfax and Elk Mound.
The expense increases Dunn County has been seeing haven’t been passed on in per capita increases, Gerk said.
The solid waste and recycling division operates a $2.9 million budget that has been increasingly difficult to meet with decreased commodity prices and lower grants from the state. In 2019, Dunn County received a grant from the state that was a little less than $157,000. The state grant was as much as $238,000 in 2008.
Dunn County had a $105,000 shortfall in its $300,000 budget for commodity sales. It was also short by $185,000 in its budget for operations with rising of costs of staff, maintenance and hauling.
Tonnage is going up, but revenue from recyclables is going down, Gerk said.
“If we don’t figure out how to generate more revenue, maximize our efficiencies and minimize our costs, we won’t be here in the future for you in this county,” Gerk said.