The drop-off center at 80th and Metcalf
Thanks to the tanking economy, the growing stream of recycled materials snapped up by hungry manufacturers in early 2008 has turned into a mountain of worthless trash entering 2009. Waste haulers, like Deffenbaugh Industries, have seen the market for recovered materials plunge to unprecedented lows. So it's no surprise that, in the New Year, area residents will have one less place to recycle their bottles and cans.
The recycling drop-off center at 80th Street and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park was slated to close far before the market for recovered glass, metal and paper products nosedived this fall. The tight space, shoehorned between a car dealership and an apartment complex, was too cumbersome for Deffenbaugh trucks to maneuver and the ruckus of glass bottles shattering in metal containers was too loud for adjacent neighbors.
At 5:30 p.m., the wooden gates at 80th and Metcalf will close for the last time, leaving just one drop-off center at 119th and Hardy for the 165,000 residents of Overland Park. At least for the foreseeable future, there won't be a replacement facility for northern Johnson County residents. The main problem in siting a recycling facility used to be the large size and unpleasant aesthetic. Now, the biggest hurdle is cost.
The doors close on this site today
Sean Reilly, a spokesman for Overland Park, says the remaining recycling center on 119th Street used to pay for itself. The raw materials, sold to domestic and international manufacturers, were bringing in $13,000 to $16,000 per month. That was enough to cover Deffenbaugh's costs to haul away and process all those beer bottles and cardboard boxes. It also paid for the city's contract with local environmental group, Bridging the Gap, to staff and operate the facility. But in the past several months, Reilly says, the center's wares have been selling for less than $5,000. "That's not anywhere near the expenses," he says.
Tom Coffman, a spokesman for Deffenbaugh Industries, says the market has been "God-awful." Because manufacturers have cut back so drastically, materials that used to sell for $150 per ton are going for next to nothing. "We've never seen anything like this," Coffman says. "It used to be that we couldn't get enough cardboard to China. Now, that market's not even there.
"That, in turn, means people who we collect their office paper or cardboard have historically received a portion of the proceeds from sales," he adds. "That's pretty much come to an end."
So instead of getting a return on its recyclables, Overland Park is having to cut a check to keep the center at 119th Street open. That means no more volunteers from Bridging the Gap -- the city ended that $90,000 contract and will take over operations at 119th Street with municipal staff tomorrow. The city will also start paying Deffenbaugh -- an estimated $60,000 to $84,000 through 2009 -- to get the materials out of the way.
Jim Twigg, special projects' coordinator for Overland Park, sympathizes with residents who have to increase their carbon footprints motoring down to 119th Street to recycle glass bottles that aren't accepted in their curbside containers. "We recognize it's a lot longer drive to access the drop-off center," Twigg says. "Our goal is to work with the other cities to open another center for folks up there. But I wouldn't expect it to be open for at least another year or so."
So pop the cork on that bottle of bubbly -- but get ready to schlepp it a little bit farther to the recycling bin. -- Carolyn Szczepanski