Education and communication remain the two largest obstacles in maintaining successful curbside recycling in Independence, according to officials with several licensed trash haulers.

Education and communication remain the two largest obstacles in maintaining successful curbside recycling in Independence, according to officials with several licensed trash haulers.

As the city aims toward providing curbside recycling as an option for all Independence residents, representatives from AAA Disposal Service Inc., Allied Waste Services, Deffenbaugh Industries, EnviroStar Waste Service Inc. and Ted’s Trash Service Inc. Tuesday afternoon discussed their existing recycling services and future plans during the Mayor’s Green Summit on Recycling at City Hall. The city’s other two licensed haulers, Compost Connection and Stewart, received invitations but did not attend the gathering.  

“We have a lot of people who are recycling in Independence already,” Mayor Don Reimal said. “It’s a program that just needs a little nudge, a little help.”

Though its popularity has increased in recent years, curbside recycling in the Kansas City region is a decades-old effort. According to Michael H. Clagett, vice president of strategic partnerships for Deffenbaugh Industries, Deffenbaugh started its involvement with curbside recycling more than 20 years ago when the city of Lenexa, Kan., passed an ordinance requiring its trash haulers to also provide curbside recycling services.

During the late 1990s, Deffenbaugh provided curbside recycling in Independence, though the program was discontinued because of a lack of participation, Clagett said. He said the company could no longer afford or justify sending equipment for the less than 100 residents who participated. But he admitted that mindsets toward recycling have changed in a decade.   

“Between 1999 and now, it is a different world out there,” Clagett said. “People are a lot more attuned to the importance of recycling, whether it’s residentially or commercially. There is a lot more activity.”  

This spring, Allied Waste Services mailed promotional literature to eastern Independence residents to see what response curbside recycling would receive, said Jim Knox, an Allied residential sale representative. After receiving a positive response in that area of town, Allied moved to another Independence zip code until the curbside service was expanded citywide, Knox said.

“We’re not anywhere near where we’d like to be,” he said, “but we we’re getting some good responses back, so we felt that was something we needed to push with the whole city.”   

After experimenting with curbside recycling in Grain Valley, Blue Springs and Buckner, AAA Disposal Service Inc. started offering the service this summer east of Lee’s Summit Road in Independence. Curbside recycling is available at no additional cost for AAA customers and is available for a fee to non-customers.

“Our goal is to take it across all of the portions of Independence that we service, which is all the way to (Interstate) 435 and anything north of (U.S.) 40,” said Chris Holmberg, one of the owners of AAA. “Because it is very expensive to do, we couldn’t come into the market and say, ‘We’re just going to do it all at once.’ So far, because we’ve experimented with pilot programs in other communities, we’re having the most success doing it this way right now because people don’t feel that they’re paying extra to do it.”

About 1,500 residents now participate in AAA’s curbside program, though the company is subsidizing its recycling operation through the trash company, Holmberg said. AAA is not paying as much to get rid of individual trash, he said, but that savings doesn’t offset expenses associated with the recycling program.    

Holmberg also said more recycling takes place than people realize through community drop-off sites, schools, churches and nonprofit organizations, which AAA now must compete with through its curbside program. Along with the other companies’ representatives, Holmberg praised the city of Independence for its regular Citizen Advisory Committee on Solid Waste Management meetings and discussions like Tuesday’s while allowing the trash haulers to maintain free enterprise.

“I think you’re doing the right thing. Keep educating people. Keep promoting it and bringing along the importance of doing it,” Holmberg said. “I will tell you for our company, we got into recycling because we plan on being in the business for many more years.”