When the city reduced its recycling pickup to every two weeks in 2012, it provided 94-gallon bins that seemed they’d always be more than enough.
That was before the Amazon Effect.
Amazon, the online sales giant, ships millions of packages in the United States every day, and the number grows every year. As its ubiquitous packages have piled up at people’s homes, some residents have complained to alders and city staff that packages from Amazon and other online shipments, mostly in the form of cardboard boxes, are starting to become difficult to accommodate in the bins they have.
A few have even paid for additional bins.
The City of Verona has taken its first step to alleviate this cardboard overload by opening a cardboard-only recycling bin at its public works facility. It’s already getting significant use in its first couple of weeks, and the city is considering getting a bigger one.
The bin is located in the dropoff area behind the public works building – across from the yard waste and electronics recycling – and is available during regular waste dropoff hours for city residents.
City staff and alders have discussed other ways to keep the recycling load manageable, and one of the biggest things could simply be better communication with residents about what should and should not go into recycling bins.
Waste Management has told the city only about 70 percent of what is put into bins can be used at its recycling facility near Milwaukee. That’s usually either because it’s an unacceptable type of material, such as polystyrene (Styrofoam), or because it’s been contaminated, such as wet or greasy cardboard. The facility also does not take items that have been put into other bags.
It doesn’t help that rules for recycling vary from community to community – and even within different operators in the same community – and seem to change all the time.
At one point, for example, public works director Theran Jacobson told the Press this week, there was a bigger market for recycling Styrofoam, but that has dried up and Waste Management does not accept it. The City of Madison’s website, however, indicates it accepts some forms, and a Waunakee facility that once accepted Styrofoam no longer does.
“It’s just people putting things they think are recyclable,” Jacobson said. “Greasy cardboard is one of them. And wet cardboard. Once it gets wet, it’s not recyclable.”
To that end, the city has revised its recycling page with a 13-page indexed listing of how to dispose of just about any item a person can think of. It contains 89 links to listings on the page, along with links to 67 other resources with information on what people can do with various unwanted items.
At a Public Works committee meeting June 10 in which the bin got the committee’s unofficial blessing, alders pointed out that the new public works facility the city is working on will make some of this easier by providing more options for bulk waste and 24/7 access. But that’s at least four years away.
The other option tossed around at that meeting but never taken seriously would be to return to weekly recycling. At $25 per stop for 3,900 stops, that would be around $100,000.
So far, Jacobson reported, 16 people have opted for a second recycling bin, which costs each person $60 a year.
In the meantime, the cardboard Dumpster is a start.
It’s is freely accessible during managed dropoff hours (Monday evenings 4:30-7 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.). It is also open during regular office hours for the public works office (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday), but in that case, anyone with dropoff material is asked to stop in at the office to check in and verify their residency.
For information, visit ci.verona.wi.us/recycling.