Recycling up 6.3% over last year in Sedgwick Co.

Sedgwick County residents generated 405,211 tons of trash last year, less than the year before as more people chose to recycle.

Single-stream recycling — recycling in which people don't have to separate their milk jugs from their beer cans — helped increase recycling by 6.3 percent last year.

Nearly 47,000 tons of materials that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill were recycled last year, Susan Erlenwein, the county's director of environmental resources, told commissioners Tuesday.

Recycling has been climbing slowly but steadily the past five years. Five years ago, 40,901 tons of materials were recycled in the county.

The county has encouraged — but not required — cities in its borders to franchise trash, including recycling, services. Erlenwein said 13 cities have contracts to do so, but seven, including Wichita, the county's largest, do not.

Two commissioners voted against approving Tuesday's annual solid waste update to submit to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment because they do not believe government should be involved in trash service.

Karl Peterjohn and Richard Ranzau said the free market should prevail and government should not encourage franchising of services.

"Monopolies are contrary to free liberty," Ranzau said.

He added that he recycles by choice, not because the government requires him to. He also said he wants to choose his own trash hauler.

The county has encouraged franchising to reduce trash-truck traffic and wear and tear on streets.

A Wichita plan that would have charged residents $20 a month for trash pickup and recycling, and divided the city into sections for trash companies, died earlier this year after opposition from people who said they already paid less and wanted to choose their trash company.

Ranzau questioned the reasons given for a push for franchising. He said he didn't believe there would be less wear and tear on streets, and he said if the issue is making trash cheaper for residents, why stop there? Why not cut deals with private companies for food, cars, gas and houses, he asked.

Peterjohn said he has been an opponent of mandating trash franchising. While the county expects cities to franchise, there's been no teeth to make them do so.

"I voted against our plan" to mandate trash franchising "at this time last year and plan to do it again," Peterjohn said.

The biggest percentage of trash thrown away — 31 percent — is yard waste, an analysis showed. The next biggest category is paper, followed by other, food, plastic, textiles, metal and glass, and construction and demolition debris.

Of yard waste, 14 percent is glass clippings, 9 percent is leaves and 8 percent is "other" yard waste.