Officials tout success of recycling program

Courtesy photo

BROOKINGS – “Accentuate the Positive.” That’s the title of a popular 1945 song by Johnny Mercer.

It’s also the sentiment of the City of Brookings’ Sustainability Council when it comes to community recycling efforts. Touting accomplishments about Brookings’ recycling efforts is one tactic the Sustainability Council uses to help keep residents actively involved in this activity.

One positive is the level of engagement in recycling efforts by Brookings residents. Over 80% of residences eligible for curbside pickup participate, according to Todd Langland, the city’s former director of solid waste management. Langland retired, effective March 31. “Participation’s up from 65 percent when curbside recycling started in 2012,” he said.

Residents have also adapted positively to prohibitions on plastic bags in curbside recycling. This includes recycling individual bags and using plastic bags to collect recycling.

The prohibition on plastic bags in the recycling stream came about due to recent changes in the recycling industry. According to Langland, Brookings’ curbside recycling stream winds up at Millennium Recycling, a materials recovery facility located in Sioux Falls.

“Personnel at Millennium tell me that plastic bags in Brookings’ recycling stream often make up only about 1 to 2% of the load,” Langland said. “That’s compared to about 5% received from other communities. So, we get positive comments from Millennium about that.”

Brown yard waste carts were added to Brookings curbside pickup in 2020, and they’re off to a positive start, Langland said. According to City of Brookings Yard Waste guidelines, residents may use them for disposing of grass clippings, leaves, stalks, vines, flowers and weeds, as well as small twigs less than a half-inch diameter. Branches are not permitted.

Use of the yard waste carts has been better than expected, according to Langland. “More residents are participating with the yard waste carts than did with curbside pickup of yard waste bags, based on reports I’ve received from collection truck drivers,” he said.

Langland notes that yard waste bags with “Brookings Municipal Landfill” printed on them will not be accepted for curbside pickup starting 2021. However, residents may use up remaining Brookings Municipal Landfill bags and transport them to the composting area of the Brookings Landfill.

The composting area has been available for several years, but it’s now part of a new Citizens’ Campus at the landfill. The campus has been operational since August 28 last year. It opened on March 20 and is anticipated to be open to early November, weather dependent.

Besides having a spot for composting yard waste, the Citizens’ Campus includes a separate area where residents can dispose of branches, wooden pallets and clean wood. Residents may also get compost for free from the Citizens’ Campus.

“This is another area of the city’s landfill operations that has been going well,” Langland said. “So far, people have been respectful of the campus, and we’ve had no illegal dumping.”

Although the demand for and use of recyclable materials has gone up and down over the years, Langland feels that recycling will remain an integral part of the Brookings community.

Accentuating the positives associated with Brookings’ recycling efforts will help sustain its success into the future.

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