Garbage trucks picking up recyclables. It’s an odd sight in Canton. But city officials say there’s a reason for it. They don’t have enough recycling trucks, and the ones they do have are not practical or large enough.
It’s a strange sight. City garbage collectors tossing plastic bottles, newspapers and other recyclable items into the back of a garbage truck, not a recycling truck.
Since the curbside recycling program’s inception, the city has used both recycling trucks and garbage trucks to collect paper, metal and plastic.
Based on the inquiries the city still receives, the practice continues to puzzle some residents. They wonder why they bother to dutifully pile aluminum cans, cardboard boxes and other items into the blue recycling bins.
City officials say not to fret. Even when the recyclables are chucked into a garbage truck, those items are not being hauled to a landfill.
The city has a firm policy not to mix garbage and recyclables in the same truck, said Derek Gordon, the city’s assistant service director.
However, the city may be making more efforts to inform the public on its recycling program, Gordon said.
“It’s an educational process,” he said. “And we’d love to have nine recyclable trucks out there marked recycling only, but it’s a resource issue.”
The city already has mentioned the multi-purpose trucks in its Canton Connection magazine. Information also is expected to be posted on the city’s website.
Another possibility is posting a notice on garbage trucks explaining they are also used to haul recyclable items, Gordon said.
So why do the garbage trucks double as recycling trucks?
For one, Gordon said, the city simply does not have enough recycling trucks to handle all of the routes. If the city relied strictly on recycling trucks, that would result in overtime costs, he said.
Most days the city operates nine trash routes and three recycling routes.
Garbage trucks also have more room than recycling trucks. So when garbage routes are finished, the recycling truck is replaced on the route.
And the three recycling trucks are outdated, Gordon said. The trucks were purchased at a time when recyclables had to be separated into groups, and not dumped into one heap. That now makes the recycling trucks less practical.
Several years ago, the trucks, along with 30,000 recycling bins, were purchased with a $700,000 grant from the Stark-Tuscarawas-Wayne Joint Solid Waste Management District.
“The industry has changed and that has facilitated the need for a different type of truck,” Gordon said.
Recycling trucks also do not compact the materials to maximize space like a garbage truck does. So a recycling truck must travel to the recycling transfer station more often, said Larry Emerick, the city’s interim sanitation superintendent.
The city tried to sell the recycling trucks to another county in the waste district but found no buyers, Gordon said.
Page 2 of 2 - The city has explored trading the vehicles for a garbage compacting vehicle, but those trucks are more expensive, making a swap difficult, Gordon said.
Retrofitting is another option. However, in some cases, it’s cheaper to buy a new truck than to retrofit the recycling vehicles, he said. Recycling trucks also may not be able to properly support the addition of a compactor, Gordon said.
Roughly 30 percent of the city’s garbage collection customers participate in the curbside recycling program, according to the sanitation department.
Both the city’s garbage and recyclables are hauled to the Kimble Transfer and Recycling facility on Bolivar Road SW.
When the city launched its curbside recycling program in 2008, the sanitation department did not hire additional staff. Although the recycling program has resulted in overtime expenses at times, the program also generates revenue.
The Kimble facility pays between around $33 to $55 per ton to the city. The rate is market driven and fluctuates.
The facility receives about 160 tons of recyclable materials from the city per month. Kimble Transfer and Recycling is on pace to pay the city $80,000 or more for recyclables for the current 12-month period, said Keith Kimble, president of Kimble Companies, which includes the transfer and recycling facility.
The city used to pay Kimble roughly $28 per ton to accept the recyclables.
“As systems have become more efficient and we’ve invested in new equipment that allows us to separate (recyclables) more efficiently. ... We’ve been able to take a business that used to be a loss leader to more of a profit center,” Kimble said. “We’re just sharing those profits ... with the generator.”
Kimble said the business sells the recyclable materials to brokers, such as PSC Metals, and to paper mills, cardboard mills, the Timken Co., Anheuser-Busch and other businesses both in and outside of Ohio. Most sales are in Ohio, however, Kimble said.
Recycling material customers also can be overseas, he said.
“Sometimes the market values for materials aren’t that good and other times pretty brisk and robust,” Kimble said.
For example, he said, milk jugs have fluctuated from 3 cents to 43 cents per pound.