Whitefish will permanently close its recycling site on January 31

Since opening in 2015, containers at the Whitefish Central Recycling Site have regularly overflowed with cans and cartons during peak periods, a persistent challenge that has set city officials on a years-long journey to settle on a program compulsory selective collection.

With the city’s recent decision to move forward with bids for a residential curbside recycling program slated to go live this spring, the central site will close permanently on January 31, leaving Whitefish residents without a centralized recycling depot, but also saving the city tens of thousands of people. dollars and reduce the problems of contamination and illegal dumping that have plagued the site since its creation.

“The existing site has been plagued by contamination and overuse, and the proposed fee to continue operating the facility is uneconomical,” said Craig Workman, Whitefish’s public works manager. “I believe the permanent closure of the current site is in the best interest of the city as we continue to research the best option to provide recycling services to our residents and business owners.

The site was opened in 2015 as a temporary location to consolidate the three existing neighborhood recycling sites and to streamline operations for North Valley Refuse (now Republic Services), the waste management company that provides recycling services. recycling at Whitefish.

The property where the site is located, at the corner of Railway Street and Columbia Avenue, is also being redeveloped into affordable housing, and its closure sooner rather than later allows for more immediate use of the property by the Whitefish Housing Authority for the clean up during the initial snowmelt. , city officials said earlier this month.

Whitefish City Council members recently considered several options for continuing to provide recycling services, but determined that the costs of continuing to operate the existing site outweighed the benefits of recycling in the past few months when the city has access to the property.

In order to continue operating the site until the spring, the city would have had to pay transportation and handling costs estimated at between $44,000 and $60,500, drawing on unbudgeted cash reserves from the city’s general fund. Closing the site on January 31, however, the cost to the city is between $16,000 and $22,000.

In April 2021, when Republic Services was first identified as the lowest bidder for a citywide curbside recycling program, the company pledged to continue serving the site. centralized recycling facility at no cost to the city until the curbside program is established. The planned rollout of the program at that time was summer or fall 2021.

“With the curbside recycling program process taking longer than expected, Republic Services asked the city to pay for the cost of processing materials for the centralized recycling site while Republic Services would continue to transport the materials at no charge. for the city,” according to Whitefish City Superintendent Dana Smith’s staff report to the council.

Although city officials have acknowledged that more recyclable materials will likely end up in the landfill due to the removal of the free centralized recycling site, contamination issues have become so significant that Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld said that it was important to maintain the site for a few more years. month was negligible.

“I think it’s time to take this site offline,” Muhlfeld said. “It’s unsightly and not fair to the neighbors at this point. I can’t imagine how many recycling bins are contaminated and go to landfill anyway.

Rather than seek another site for the centralized recycling program, Whitefish councilors along with the city’s climate action plan have identified single-stream curbside recycling as having the most positive impact. important on community waste diversion. The curbside collection program will not only result in a greater likelihood of capturing recycling, which meets the targets set out in the Climate Action Plan, but it also deals with contamination caused by individual customers more effectively than a site. central.

A curbside collection program also doesn’t require the construction and maintenance costs associated with developing a new central site, which are estimated to be around $185,000, according to Workman, who noted in December that the The latest item on the agenda marks the sixth time the board has taken up the issue of recycling in the past year.

As Whitefish finally moves closer to a curbside collection program and makes improvements to its solid waste collections by purchasing animal-resistant containers for trash and recyclables, recycling services will remain available to people. interested parties through private vendors and county-run drop-off sites located throughout the valley. For a complete list of recycling options, visit: https://www.wastenotproject.org/recycle/#where_to_recycle.

Additional questions regarding the site closure can be directed to the Public Works Department at publisworks@cityofwhitefish.org or (406) 863-2460.