CUSTER COUNTY—The public is invited to share opinions when it comes to reducing, reusing, and recycling in Custer County. The Board of Supervisors has discussed the local recycling center through the years but is now taking a closer look at the operating costs.
A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, March 12 at 10:45 a.m. in the Supervisors Room in the Courthouse (431 S 10th Ave, Broken Bow, NE 68822).
Board Chairman Barry Fox told KCNI/KBBN that the Custer County Recycling Center was not designed to generate revenue, but that the board wants to collect feedback from the community. The recycling center has cost an average of $115,000 per year based on the last few years, according to Fox.
“I don’t think there was ever the intention that recycling was going to be something that was revenue generating but that cost continues to get steeper and so we want to make sure that the public is informed about what those expenses are and make sure that what we’re doing is ultimately what the public wants in regards to recycling,” Fox said.
He continued, “So the most recent years are right at $115,000 a year is the net cost. Our expenses push between $150,000 and $160,000 a year and then we net back about $40,000 to $50,000 from sales. So, somewhere around that $115,000 for the last three years is a close estimate. We’re projecting $128,000 loss for this year. Those projections we typically make a little bit aggressive, so it may not be quite that bad,” Fox said.
Fox said approximately 700,000 pounds of materials are recycled per year which saves about $28,000 in tipping fees by not putting those recyclables in the transfer station. In general, the cost of recycling is about two percent of Custer County’s budget.
“Over that 10-year period it’s cost the county $891,000 to operate the recycling center versus our annual budget it’s about two percent of the tax payer dollars that we receive go to fund the recycling center. So, our budget on the tax side is about $6.4 million and at somewhere around $128,000 it’ll be about two percent of this year’s budget,” Fox said.
Recycling Manager Kelly Flynn has worked at the Custer County Recycling Center since 1995 (just a couple of years after the center and the transfer station opened in 1993-94) before the county took over management in 2000. The current lease on the building expires in 2023.
Approximately six other counties also use the recycling center and are charged two cents per pound to bring their recyclable materials, according to Flynn.
In 2018 alone, nearly 720,000 pounds were recycled locally. The recycling center, located on Ryno Road, operates with two full-time employees including Flynn and Will Trumbull. The two unloaded 476 trailers and roll-offs last year. Flynn told KCNI/KBBN there are 24 trailers spread throughout 16 communities.
Flynn said thanks to the work of the recycling center, approximately 30 million pounds of materials have been recycled and kept out of landfills (waste from the transfer station is taken to Lexington).
Despite rising costs, Flynn encourages the community to attend the public hearing on March 12 to support the recycling center because it is an environmental issue and gives people the option to divert from producing waste.
“The recycling center is basically a public service, no different than all the other county offices and so we don’t pay for ourselves. Market prices have never been good enough to do that—it wasn’t intended that way,” Flynn said.
At this time, the equipment used to recycle in Custer County has been obtained through grants. One of the largest markets—cardboard—is sent to Oklahoma to be reused and newspapers recycled locally are sent to Utah to be used as green fiber house insulation.
“I know all the different figures they shoot out—how much it costs a month and everything but when you get down to it, there’s over 10,000 people in Custer County and it’s roughly one dollar per person a month to recycle so that’s what our budget entails,” Flynn said.
Currently, items accepted at the recycling center include paper, cardboard, aluminum, tin cans, #1 and #2 plastic, used oil, lead-acid batteries, computers, and pesticide containers.