By Kim Steele
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS - A group of Mountain View Elementary students who made a plea to the City Council for curbside recycling discovered a plan is under way to implement the service.
City Manager Steve Carpenter said he met with the city's garbage contractor, Waste Management of Temple, last week to talk about adding curbside recycling to its services.
"There has been a lot of interest in recycling from our focus groups over the past 10 years," Carpenter told the students last week. "So we put a transfer station in and have been trying to start regional recycling. Now we're looking at curbside pickup. The council appreciates your input. You are one more group to show interest in it."
The five students distributed a letter and brochure to council members and talked about curbside recycling services. Team manager Peter Lam said the students, many of whom are military children, believe Harker Heights needs the pickup service and they don't understand why the city hasn't implemented it yet.
"Recycling helps the earth, stops global warming and costs a lot less," said Bennett Farrar, 11, a fifth-grader, after the meeting. "It's important for families to do, because if they don't, what kind of world will we live in? It would be a place you'd only see in your nightmares. I'm glad the city council listened to us."
The students were local participants in Destination ImagiNation, an international organization that provides educational programs for students. As part of a regional competition, the students chose recycling as their community project.
Shouldn't cost much
Public Works Director Mark Hyde said each Harker Heights residence currently pays $18.33 a month for garbage collection. He said he doesn't think it would cost much more to add curbside recycling. Currently, residents' trash is picked up twice a week and curbside recycling could either replace one of the collections or be additional.
"Recycling is important in Harker Heights," said Hyde. "There's been a lot of inquiry about curbside service from residents, and at our recent town hall meeting, there were many comments about it on the surveys we got back."
Carpenter said recycling is a service people expect when they move into a growing community. The large military population in Harker Heights is used to the variety of recycling options in other cities and countries, said Carpenter, and is disappointed they aren't available here.
"We're already doing a lot, but we want to do more and make it even simpler for our residents," said Carpenter. "It all comes down to quality of life. If people visit and shop here, they'll want to move here. And they'll want services like recycling."
City Councilman Sam Murphey, Place 2, said curbside pickup seems to be a natural progression of recycling opportunities in the city. Murphey said the amount of interest shown in curbside recycling by Harker Heights residents leads him to believe it is something they desire and will use.
"We just have to figure out how much it's going to cost and whether we'll get enough from recycling to pay for it," said Murphey. "We're going to need to study it in a workshop. I think it's possible for us to get it done, but the challenge is to do it in an efficient and cost-effective way that benefits everyone."
In August 2008, the city opened the transfer station at 1761 E. Farm-to-Market 2410 to accept bulky and brush items from residents. In 2009, the city partnered with Fort Hood to accept plastic, aluminum, paper, cardboard and scrap metal.
Since the program started, the money raised from recycling at the transfer station has more than paid for the cost of picking up the materials and providing the containers, according to previous Herald reports.
Hyde said that in January, 753 deliveries of cardboard were made to the transfer station. There were 87 drop-offs of scrap metal and 739 deliveries of plastic, paper and aluminum, he added. Residents contributed 423 loads of brush and 756 loads of bulk items.
The city has reached out to neighboring communities recently in an effort to recycle. In November, the city participated in a meeting hosted by the Centex Sustainable Communities Partnership at the Harker Heights Activities Center to discuss a regional recycling program.
Officials from Harker Heights, Killeen, Copperas Cove, Gatesville and Fort Hood learned about pay-as-you-throw trash collection, as well as curbside and single-stream recycling. Hyde said the cities are awaiting a report about the various options available to them.
Last week, the city council agreed to participate in a household hazardous waste event with Killeen and the Central Texas Council of Governments. Hyde will be representing Harker Heights at the event, and the city will contribute $5,000 to it. Killeen will provide $20,000 and the Central Texas Council of Governments will underwrite the remainder.
Carpenter said Waste Management of Temple will submit a proposal for curbside recycling to the city by March 10. The city council will discuss it during a workshop and consider approving it later.
Hazardous waste collection
Household hazardous waste will be collected from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 3 at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center rear parking lot, 3601 S. W.S. Young Drive, Killeen. It is free to all Bell County residents with identification and proof of residency.
Acceptable items include paint, automotive and household batteries, motor oil and oil filters, antifreeze, household cleaners and pesticides, flammables, corrosives, electronics and tires without rims.
Prohibited items include infectious and medical wastes, ammunition, smoke detectors, explosives and fire extinguishers.