Casper faces some hard choices about its longtime recycling program including the possibility of ending all residential recycling with the self-serve drop-off depots, city officials recently said.

Market forces and tighter requirements from buyers of recycling products are among the factors that have pushed city council to offer five options that are now before the public to consider.

The city council addressed the problem at its April 28 work session, and most members agreed that the feel-good aspect of people putting their cans and bottles in the green bins isn't worth the cost.

"We need to gut up," council member Steve Cathey said. "We need to get past feel-good to an economic decision."

The city's solid waste manager Cynthia Langston said the landfill has has had to reject 25% of the recycling loads because of contamination.

Contamination is as simple as having Styrofoam, packing materials, tape and cereal boxes put in the corrugated drop-off depots, she said.

“Instead of the materials being recycled, they are transported to the landfill for burial," Langston said. "This is wasting our resources and customer resources.”

Buyers had accepted contamination at 5%, but buyers of recyclables have adopted a zero-tolerance policy, Langston said.

That has cut into the revenues the city has received from buyers, and the rejected loads increase cost and decrease the income, she said.

The city recently built a materials recovery facility at the solid waste facility, which separates commingled recyclables and prepares them for shipment to buyers, Langston said.

Council selected five options for consideration. Residents can select the option they want on the survey now on the city's website or by or by calling the solid waste division at 235-8296.

Council member Charlie Powell city residents need to make a rational decision about the future of recycling as they consider the survey.

"We need to blow it out of the water that this isn't working," Powell said.

These are the options. For more details, see the survey on the city's website:

No. 1 -- No change to current drop-off depots and do not open the materials recovery facility. The city would charge an extra 26 cents per month to Casper residential customers due to loss of revenue from recycling

No. 2 -- Close all drop-off depots and do not open the materials recovery facility. There would be no change to trash collection rates. Cost savings from not collecting the depots will be consumed by costs of having an increase in materials buried in the landfill.

No. 3 -- Keep the drop-off depots open and open the materials recovery facility. This would add $1.70 per month to residential customers' solid waste bill.

The facility would enable the city to make money from recycling. The city expects the recycling rate will rise up to 5% a year. As the demand for recycling materials increases worldwide, revenues will rise, and less trash will be buried.

No. 4 -- Close depots and open the materials recovery facility. This would add 30 cents per month to residential customers' solid waste bill.

However, this would cost up to $4 per month for residents who drive to the materials recovery facility, add up to an hour in travel to the landfill and wait time compared to using the drop-off depots, and may cause residents to put their recyclables in their trash.

No. 5 -- Close depots, open the materials recovery facility, and offer curbside collection. This would add 30 cents per month to residential customers' solid waste bill, but it would hike fuel costs and travel and wait time for residents.

Council member Bob Hopkins said he favors the fifth option because that has an appropriate economy of scale.

Cathey agreed, saying the fifth option is the best option. Otherwise, the city should do away with recycling, he said.

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