By Mark Fischenich
---- — MANKATO — Mankatoans — and possibly North Mankatoans — will be tossing all of their recyclables in a single wheeled cart starting on Jan. 1, 2015.
The Mankato City Council indicated strong support for making the change from the current system where different types of recyclable materials are separated into individual crates that are carried to the curbside. Mankato would be far from alone in making the switch to single-stream recycling, said Dan Krivit, a consultant hired by the city to help with the transition.
"Most cities on an almost universal basis are going to a single-stream recycling," said Krivit of Green Bay-based Foth Infrastructure and Environment.
Mankato has a contract through 2014 with Waste Management and must give six-months notice if it intends to end that contract by Jan. 1, 2015. So the city is looking to make a final decision soon and put the new service out to bid in November.
Krivit is recommending the city purchase and own the two carts that will be standard at every home under the new system — a large recycling cart, probably 94 gallons, and a smaller cart for trash. That means buying roughly 25,000 carts at a total cost of more than $1 million, another factor putting pressure on the city to make a final decision in the next few weeks.
By owning the carts, which are warrantied for 10 years but typically last for 15 or more, the city will likely see more small and mid-sized waste companies bid to provide Mankato's garbage, according to Krivit. The biggest waste haulers get volume discounts when purchasing the carts, giving them an advantage in bidding on municipal contracts when the hauler is required to supply the carts. At roughly $55 each, purchasing the carts for 12,000 households in a city like Mankato might also be a daunting financial challenge for a small waste hauler.
The bottom line is more competition for the contract will likely mean better bids, Krivit said.
Making it easier for residents to recycle should also reduce the amount of trash they put in the garbage cart, meaning the city will face reduced garbage volume, said Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges. With the cost of garbage disposal running at $80 a ton, the savings could be substantial if more recycling occurs. The city expects to share those savings with residents who agree to accept a smaller garbage cart than the current 54-gallon variety in return for a lower monthly garbage fee.
The city has offered to do a joint bidding process — known as a request for proposals — with North Mankato. That city operates its own recycling center in conjunction with Nicollet County, which complicates any decision to make the transition to single-stream recycling there, and the North Mankato City Council is still considering whether to make the switch. Hentges said North Mankato will have to decide soon whether to join Mankato, and Mankato Councilmember Tamra Rovney ended the discussion with an enthusiastic expression of the council's eagerness.
"Let's get the RFP out," Rovney said.