By Rose L. Thayer
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS - A regional recycling program could make recycling easier and cheaper for residents of Killeen, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove, Gatesville and Fort Hood, local recycling officials told community members at a public forum Thursday night.
About 50 people attended the meeting hosted by the Centex Sustainable Communities Partnership at the Harker Heights Activities Center to discuss recycling options feasible for the region and to get public feedback.
"Right now, each city does its own recycling and sorting and figures out where to sell. If we combine together, there's a lot of strength in numbers," said Stacy Demers, of SCS Engineers, a Bedford-based company hired by Fort Hood to conduct a study on the topic.
Demers described pay-as-you-throw trash collection and curbside and single-stream recycling as more convenient, cost-cutting possible options for residents than those currently in place across the region.
In Killeen, residents already have access to a pay-as-you-throw program, where smaller trash bins cost less, and curbside recycling. Copperas Cove has a voluntary curbside recycling program and a flat-rate trash service.
"I'm hoping people are interested in the pay-as-you-throw option," said Andrea Gardner, Copperas Cove city manager. "It's more convenient if you do single stream and pay-as-you-throw. It would make it easier and we might see more participation (because it's incentivized)."
Peter DiLillo, recycling operations manager for Killeen, said pay-as-you-throw can be effective, but Killeen's system could use some work. Switching from a large trash can to a medium one doesn't cover the cost of paying for a recycling bin, he said. "The medium needs to cover that cost and then some."
Currently, 7.2 percent of Killeen households use the curbside recycling program.
Regional recycling wouldn't just save residents money, officials said, but also local governments.
"(Recycling) helps reduce hauling and disposing costs," said Gardner. Copperas Cove spends around $900,000 annually on removing residents' trash, she added.
Bob Gedert, Austin's director of solid waste services, who attended the forum to discuss the benefits and functionality of his city's single-stream recycling and pay-as-you-throw programs, agreed.
"Recycling always costs less than landfills," he said.
Sandy McMillan of Gatesville attended the meeting and said she was excited about what she heard - especially the possibility of a recycling rewards program already being used in Houston, Corpus Christi and Carrolton.
"Why not? We get rewards for our credit cards, so why not for recycling?" she said.
Should a regional recycling program be enacted, Fort Hood's recycling facility could expand to absorb materials from communities other than Harker Heights, its current recycling partner. Other options include building a facility elsewhere in the region.
Regardless of location, capital investment would be required. DiLillo emphasized that no matter what programs or options sound interesting to residents, the only way to really make it become a reality is to tell elected officials.
"People have to call their elected official and say let's get going on this," he said. "They have to say we are committed, just like they do with the airport, or highway expansion."
Contact Rose L. Thayer at email@example.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.