Overland Park residents would get option for every-other-week recycling pickup with proposal

By Paul Ploumis

Overland Park is once again considering a proposal from Waste Management to allow for residents to get their recycling picked up every other week instead of weekly. 

The city’s Community Development Committee on Wednesday discussed the request from the private trash hauler, which approached the committee with a similar request last February. 

At that time, the committee showed little enthusiasm for the idea, citing residents’ opposition to every-other-week pickups, and asked Waste Management for more information. 

Under the company’s proposal outlined Wednesday, residents would still be able to have recycling picked up weekly but at a higher cost per month, or could opt to have their recycling picked up every other week.

The company estimated maintaining weekly pickup would cost customers who chose that option an additional $7 to $10 per month.

Company’s reasons for proposed change

John Blessing of Waste Management told the committee Wednesday that the basis for requesting an every-other-week recycling pickup option is sustainability.

Pandemic-related staffing shortages have made recycling pickup more costly, he said. 

“A good portion of sustainability is affordability,” Blessing said. “Unfortunately, what we didn’t know was the effects of the pandemic have kind of exacerbated those costs.” 

Blessing said Overland Park would be the last city in the Kansas City metro Waste Management serves to start implementing this option.

He told the committee that about 90% of customers in other communities have chosen every-other-week pickup since it became an option in those places. 

A majority of those customers chose that because it was more affordable, he said, and they didn’t produce enough recycleable waste in their households to need weekly pickups. 

“A lot of the feedback we got, 70% was cost-based and about 30% of feedback was just people saying that they don’t fill their recycling as it is,” he said. 

Council discussion

Cassandra Ford, chair of the city’s Environmental Advisory Council, told the committee that other communities who have implemented every-other-week recycling pickup have one hauler for the whole city, while Overland Park has more.

She said that, combined with how cost could impact residents who don’t belong to Homeowners Associations, would make it more difficult to implement an every-other-week option equitably in Overland Park. 

“There’s a lot of inequity in the system,” Ford said. “We like residents to have the choice, but they shouldn’t have to pay $7 to $10 more on top of the two thirds they’re already paying more than HOA areas just to have the same level of service.” 

In discussion, committee member Fred Spears said he had changed his mind since the original discussion about this item last year and is now in favor of it.

Councilmemer Sam Passer also said he approved of it but added that it would be worth exploring ways to make an every-other-week option more equitable. 

“Hearing the facts that (Waste Management) presented tonight, it’s very compelling,” Passer said. “It’s not only advantageous to the hauler. It could be advantageous for the resident, and probably importantly as well, it did show that the volume [or recycling] was not decreasing.” 

Committee Chair Logan Heley said he would prefer to gather more feedback before making a change.

As someone who does not live within a HOA himself, he said another $7 to $10 a month would be significant on top of what they already pay. 

“I personally would not be comfortable moving forward with this change until we had the Environmental Advisory Council’s formal feedback,” he said. “I do think that this is a more comprehensive issue. We’ve kind of been taking each of these waste-related issues kind of one by one, and I really think that we need to look a little bit more comprehensively for the benefit of our residents.” 

Councilmember Melissa Cheatham said she would also prefer to hear an official opinion first.

“I understand our resource constraints as a city staff in a pandemic,” she said. “But I am interested in seeing the EAC’s top priority of optimizing trash for our community, reducing pollution and increasing diversion from the landfill pursued.”

City staff and the committee ultimately decided to begin drafting an ordinance that includes an every-other-week option, which would be presented formally at a future date.

In the meantime, staff will seek input from the city’s Environmental Advisory Council about how to implement every-other-week pickup sustainably.