A mandatory citywide recycling service in Killeen may not come cheaply, but it’s the right thing to do.

The Killeen City Council last week considered an initiative that would establish curbside recycling for the city’s 46,000 households over the next two years. The estimated price tag is $4.6 million, which would come out of the city’s solid waste budget debt starting in fiscal year 2013.

In conjunction with the program’s implementation, the city would add about $2.50 a month to residents’ utility bills.

As things stand, Killeen offers only a voluntary subscription recycling service. Just 3,500 households take part in the program and are charged a monthly fee of $2.48, while residents who don’t recycle pay nothing.

Few other Texas cities — if any — have such a setup. As Mayor Dan Corbin correctly noted, that’s hardly the way to institute a recycling program.

This is not Killeen’s first attempt at a citywide service. After launching a pilot program in 2000, thecouncil was close to initiating citywide curbside service in December 2001. But a last-minute controversy over the city’s selection of a contractor torpedoed the program. The following month, a committee was formed to re-examine the effort, including looking into a potential joint venture with Fort Hood.

In February 2002, however, the council rejected three proposals for a citywide curbside program, opting instead for the voluntary subscription service in use today.

The need for a citywide program is great, if only because of the positive environmental impact.

Numbers provided by the city’s director of Solid Waste Services, Michael Cleghorn, bear this out.

On average, one person generates about four pounds of trash daily; one family generates a ton of trash per year.

The city currently diverts 480 tons annually from its trash through recycling, with its 3,550 curbside recycling customers. If a citywide program were implemented, the city could divert about 11,000 tons annually.

Not only would a full-scale program help put recyclable materials back into circulation, but it would also ease the burden on the Temple landfill, where Killeen sends its trash — as do several other cities across a seven-county area.

The proposed recycling initiative would be “single-stream,” meaning recyclables are mixed together at the collection point, then separated for reuse at a materials recovery facility.

At Tuesday’s council workshop, city staff recommended the council look to a single-stream program that could align with other area cities. City Manager Glenn Morrison pointed to the communities of Copperas Cove, Belton and Temple, as well as Fort Hood as potential partners in the effort.

As the hub for a regional materials recovery facility Killeen would need to have at least 75,000 to 100,000 customers, according to a Fort Hood environmental specialist. With the city already claiming 46,000 households, at least 30,000 more would be needed to make a facility viable.

The city’s old transfer station on State Highway 195 would be a potential location for the facility, city officials have noted. Whichever contractor the city chooses to pick up and sort the recyclable materials could use the facility, cutting startup costs.

Of course, a citywide recycling program would require an investment in equipment and vehicles. As part of the $4.6 million price tag, the city would buy seven recycling trucks and 46,000 new recycling carts, which would need to be larger than the current blue canisters because of the automated pickup systems used.

However, it’s likely that the city would see annual savings of up to $400,000 in the form of reduced hauling costs and fees at the Temple landfill — not an insignificant figure, to be sure.

Whether the council will move forward with the initiative remains to be seen. Council members last week asked for a financial analysis of the program and may yet include it in the budget for fiscal year 2013-2014, which begins Oct. 1.

No doubt, there are some residents who would view a citywide recycling program as an unwarranted imposition, especially since all residents would be charged a fee, whether they recycle or not.

But the time has come for Killeen officials and residents alike to recognize the city’s obligation to help protect the environment by reducing its footprint at local landfills.

This is one opportunity that should not be thrown away.

Contact Dave Miller at dmiller@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7543

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