High contamination rates are making it more costly for Waste Management to process recycling pickups in Paola.

PAOLA — Residential trash pickup in Paola will now be a bit more expensive for residents due to rising costs in the recycling industry and high contamination rates Waste Management is experiencing from Paola customers.

Paola City Council members, during their Nov. 10 meeting, approved an ordinance that will increase the monthly residential sanitation service rate from $17 to $18.25, beginning Jan. 1, 2021. The rate for qualified low-income senior residents will remain $5.

The council members knew the rate increase was likely coming. They had previously discussed the issue during a work session in September

City Manager Sid Fleming said it’s costing Waste Management more money to process recyclables due to high contamination levels and new stricter requirements. Options presented included increasing the monthly cost for residents, changing the recycling collection level to every other week, or do nothing and know that Waste Management could end up imposing a fee increase at a later date anyway.

Councilman Dave Smail said he received multiple calls from residents about the issue, and all of them were in favor of the fee increase rather than changing to bi-weekly recycling pickup. Council member Leah House agreed.

“I think this is a good alternative,” she said.

A recent news release from Waste Management states that in January 2018, the world of recycling changed dramatically, when China began enforcing new contamination limits that required processors to meet a contamination threshold of less than 1 percent in the recyclables baled for shipment.

Considering the average bale of recycling material weighs 2,000 pounds, the acceptable contamination amount is 10 pounds. Recent audits of the recycling stream in Paola reveals contamination in the residential recyclables of almost 25 percent, equivalent to 500 pounds of contamination per bale.

John Blessing, Waste Managements’ public sector sales representative for the Kansas City market, said local residents can help the process by monitoring what they are putting into their recycling containers.

“Contamination is still one of our greatest challenges,” he said. “It’s important for consumers to know what can and what cannot be placed in the recycling stream.”

Items like plastic bags, electrical cord, rope, hoses and clothing, all referred to as “wrappables,” contaminate the recycling stream and may cause damage to equipment resulting in downtime and costly repairs, according to the Waste Management news release.

Food containers that have not been thoroughly rinsed contaminate the stream and increase the rejection of shipped materials.

Needles, sharps and other medical-related supplies place employees at risk.

Batteries, propane and aerosol containers can be explosion and fire hazards, according to the release.

“We tell people, when in doubt — leave it out — and then go find out,” Blessing said.

Information on what can be recycled can be found online at www.wm.com/recycleright.

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or brian.mccauley@miconews.com.

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