New recycling center almost ready to open

As early as next month, Wichita residents may have a new place to take their empty cereal boxes, milk jugs, old newspapers and glass bottles.

And it isn't to a trash can under the sink.A local recycling organization plans to open a new drop-off recycling center in Wichita sometime in August or early September.Last week, the Wichita City Council granted authority to Plastics Recycling of Kansas Inc. to use a city-owned building at 2113 S.Mead, near Pawnee and Broadway.

The 23,000-square-foot building is in the vacated Kice Industries complex.

The center will provide a way for people to take hard-to-recycle items -- paper, plastics, glass and cardboard -- all to one place.

Marydel Grayum, vice president of the group, said the center will make recycling easier in an area where recycling hasn't been a priority.

Statistics have shown that Kansas has one of the lowest recycling rates in the country. That trend trickles down to the Wichita area.

The city recycles about 3 percent of its residential trash, according to statistics from Plastics Recycling.

Sedgwick County's overall recycling rate is about 11 percent, but that includes business, commercial and residential recycling.

Each Wichita resident recycles an average of 11.8 pounds a year, according to figures compiled from county statistics. The figure is based on the amount of materials Weyerhaeuser Recycling Co. takes in.

In Bel Aire, which has a comprehensive curbside service, each resident recycles an average of 52 pounds a year.

Andy Schlapp, director of community relations for Sedgwick County, said statistics show that each resident in the county produces about 6 pounds of trash per day, of which 1.2 pounds can be recycled.

Annually the county produces 442,965 tons of trash; 36 percent is recycled. Schlapp said the county's goal is to recycle 40 percent of its waste.

He said the county recognizes that there could be a better effort made for recycling but doesn't want to impose a mandatory program at a cost to residents.

"Recycling is very important," he said. "There's no doubt our recycling rates can be better."

Grayum said she wants the county to be more involved in recycling but hopes the new center will attract more people.

She said she wants the center to make an impression on the community so the group can continue the business even after the lease is up.

The city plans to tear the building down in two years to make way for a railroad overpass.

Although it won't be permanent, City Council member Sharon Fearey said the center will give people a better, more convenient way to recycle.

"I think it's going to provide a much-needed service for the community," she said. "It's been a long process, but I think it's one that was worth the wait."

The building may be named the Miller Recycling Center, after local recycling advocates Paul and Margaret Miller, Grayum said.

To get started, group members and volunteers cleaned up junk around the building Saturday.

Grayum said the organization plans to test-run the center this month by processing recyclable materials from volunteers and group members.

She said they don't want to start taking too many materials too fast. Once the center opens to the public, it can take 50 to 70 tons a month, Grayum said.

"We don't want to have a formal opening until we're ready to handle all that," she said.

Betty Ladwig, an avid recycler, anticipates that the building could draw large numbers of people if it is well publicized.

The group "has their work cut out for them," said Ladwig, a Wichita resident who uses a curbside service. "I think anything that we can do to reduce the waste going into our landfills is important."

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