In an effort to make recycling more available, Powell Valley Recycling will be putting out its drop-off bins again. Starting in June, the bins will be available every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. …
In an effort to make recycling more available, Powell Valley Recycling will be open on more weekends. Starting in June, the the recyling center will be open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Currently, they’re open only every other Saturday. ) The recycling center will also maintain its weekday hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
City of Powell leaders have been encouraging the nonprofit organization to boost availability.
“We got to do something. We need to be more accessible,” said Powell City Councilor Zane Logan, who is the council’s liaison with the Powell Valley Recycling Board.
After being closed due to the COVID pandemic for months, the center reopened in May 2020, but the drop-off bins were no longer available. Part of the concern at the time was that the novel coronavirus was spreading on surfaces; if materials were left in the bins when the center was closed, there would be no way to determine if they had sat long enough to be safe to touch.
It is now known that COVID rarely spreads on surfaces. But PVR employees say they still need to have employees monitoring what people drop off, because people don’t follow instructions. They leave materials that can’t be recycled, such as pasteboard and styrofoam, or use the bins as a dumpster to discard regular garbage. This includes items such as dirty diapers and rotten food.
“They’re sometimes handling some really gross things. People just drop off everything,” said Marynell Oechsner, president of the PVR Board.
Oechsner said that charities, such as Goodwill, have a similar problem with people dropping off junk just to get rid of it.
“It’s probably a minority, but it’s something our employees are no longer willing to deal with,” Oechsner said.
The center has tried to resolve the problem with visible signs describing what the facility can and cannot recycle, but many residents, Logan said, just ignore the information.
“No matter how many signs you put out, people just throw their garbage in the bins. They use it as a municipal dump,” Logan said.
However, the lack of drop-off bins also greatly diminishes the center’s accessibility for those who want to utilize the service.
Mayor John Wetzel said his recycling material piles up in his garage until he remembers to go drop it off during the center’s limited hours. Logan said many people are taking their recycling to Cody when they go shopping.
“We’re losing valuable revenue when that happens,” Wetzel said.
At the special PVR board meeting this month, the board explored three options for the employees to consider. One option was to have the bins out 24/7 as it was before the pandemic, which would require regular sorting.
Oechsner said this extra work greatly adds to the center’s costs, and they have a hard enough time breaking even, much less generating any profit that would allow them to provide maintenance on the facility’s equipment.
For the employees, Oechsner explained, this wasn’t an acceptable option, and the board doesn’t want to make them do something that would lead them to quit. With a starting wage of $8.50 per hour — for part-time work with no benefits — there won’t be a lot of applicants for open positions. Most of the employees are retirees, and they are committed to recycling. Oechsner said the center is lucky to have them.
“Good help is hard to find. We have good help, and we want to keep our good help happy,” Oechsner said.
Logan said he understands why the board is negotiating duties with the staff.
“They aren’t overstaffed, and the employees they have aren’t overpaid. I sympathize with that,” Logan explained.
Another option was to have the bins out over the weekend, but that would still mean sorting through garbage every Monday.
The employees agreed to the option of being open every Saturday, with two of them on hand to monitor what people are dropping off.
“It’s a working solution,” Oechsner said.
She said if those hours don’t provide people enough opportunity to drop off their recyclables, it would be due to a lack of commitment to recycling.
In addition to the extended hours, Oechsner said they will start posting more advertisements on social media in hopes of reaching younger people who want to recycle.
Oechsner said the center is hoping for more financial support from the Park County Commission, as surveys the employees have taken of people dropping off materials showed that about 45% of them live outside Powell. Centers leaders have requested $8,847 from the county in the upcoming fiscal year, up from $2,500 in the current year.
The center is seeing fairly good commodity prices, Oechsner said, but some of that is offset by increased transportation costs.
“Things seem to be coming up a little bit,” she said.
(Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the bins are not being made available during the additional Saturdays.)