Curbside recycling service in Butte will continue for now and McGree Trucking says it's confident a long-term program can be worked out.
But there are still no community bins for recyclables in urban Butte and it’s unclear if business routes for picking up materials, which AWARE Inc. used to provide, will be restored.
Meanwhile, over the objections of a few commissioners, Butte-Silver Bow has hired a woman to explore all recycling options here and try to increase the number of residents who pay for curbside service.
The county will pay Kaleena Miller $35 per hour up to five hours per week to explore new recycling initiatives and provide “general recycling education” to the community, including through schools and civic organizations.
Miller helped get recycling programs started here a few years ago as a member of Energy Corps, a group sponsored in part by the National Center for Appropriate Technology to organize community involvement in sustainable energy plans.
Dave Palmer, Butte-Silver Bow’s chief executive, says the county should continue to explore recycling options despite AWARE’s decision this spring to shut down its recycling operations in Butte.
AWARE operated a processing facility on South Arizona Street that took materials from on-site drop-offs, the curbside program and giant bins where people could put recyclable materials at no charge. It also picked up materials from numerous businesses in Butte.
But AWARE cited a “catastrophic drop” in commodities prices for recyclables and state budget cuts as reasons for dropping its operations this past spring. The budget cuts affected its human services programs — its core mission.
The curbside program was a private arrangement between AWARE and McGree Trucking, the trash hauler in Butte that charges residents an extra $15 each month to pick up recyclable material. Only about 300 households pay for the service, leaving nearly 12,000 that could but don't.
McGree has continued to pick up curbside materials and its vice president, Jim McGree, said it will keep doing that for now. He says he’s confident a longer-term curbside program can be worked out.
McGree is also exploring the possibility of picking up materials from businesses, but nothing definitive has been set.
The county had paid McGree $6,470 a month to pick up materials from the community bins, but that was nixed in April following AWARE’s announcement.
The council signed off on a contract with Miller last week, although three commissioners — Bill Andersen, Jim Fisher and Cindy Perdue-Dolan — voted against hiring her.
Fisher said the city-county government gave recycling a shot two years ago but it did not work out.
“If this is a great idea, open a business, charge them (customers), haul it wherever you want, but for the local government to get involved in the recycling thing again does not make sense,” he said.
Perdue-Dolan agreed, saying “every community is having trouble with recycling right now” because of market forces.
“Nobody is taking recycling and that is the huge problem right now,” she said. “It is supply and demand.”
Karen Byrnes, Butte-Silver Bow’s community development director, said many people in Butte want to recycle and the number opting for the curbside program “has the potential to be grown exponentially.”
Palmer said recycling saves space in the county’s landfill and the cost of opening a new trash cell there was “atrocious,” so officials should take a look at anything that could help. Several commissioners said they agreed with that.