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‘Contamination’ cause for Bismarck’s consolidating recycling drop sites

‘Contamination’ cause for Bismarck’s consolidating recycling drop sites

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Neighborhood recycling drop sites, which Waste Management refer to as “the largest contributors of contamination,” are being consolidated in Bismarck, with the city’s landfill being the lone drop site for recyclables moving forward.

The city commission unanimously approved the change, which will go into effect around mid-November, at a meeting Tuesday night.

According to Waste Management, Bismarck’s nine drop sites, which consist of  40 dumpsters located in the parking lots of Kmart, Dan’s Supermarket and Cottonwood Park, among others, are “highly contaminated” with items such as bowling balls, carpet and padding, tires, syringes, children’s toys, TVs and car seats.

“We’re contracted to pick up recycling for you folks, but we’re picking up garbage, obviously, in these dumpsters,” said Paul Kalibabky, Waste Management’s public sector representative. “Don’t get me wrong, this is not just you guys. This is any city or county that I have a drop site. This is what happens.”

Kalibabky said he feels contamination, as well as commercial dumping, will be reduced if the city eliminates eight of the nine drop sites and expands the one at the landfill, 2111 N. 52nd St. The location will be managed and “closely monitored” by Waste Management, and its hours will mirror the landfill’s.

Waste Management will continue to collect residents’ recyclable materials curbside, with the service being offered to those living in single-family and duplex homes. According to Kalibabky, the curbside program is “pretty clean.”

Bismarck entered into a single-sort recycling contract with Waste Management in April 2014 and, since then, has diverted 18,000 tons of material from the landfill, with the curbside recycling program accounting for 12,000 of those tons. About 113 tons per month are collected from the drop sites, Kalibabky said.

“If you want to visualize how much space we’ve saved in the landfill cells … if you envision a football field, including its end zones, piled 21 feet high with recyclable materials, that’s what we’ve collected in roughly four years,” said Commissioner Nancy Guy. “We’ve saved a considerable amount of space in the landfill cells, and that tells me people in town are excited about recycling.”

Earlier this year, China, the world’s largest importer and buyer of recycling, implemented the National Sword policy, which places strict regulations on imported recyclable materials.

“If you send them 2,000 pounds of cardboard, you can only have 10 pounds of contamination … almost an unachievable goal, really, if you think about that,” Kalibabky said. “It’s got to be clean, the contamination has got to get out of the stream. That presents a certain challenge.”

Due to the policy, Waste Management’s percentage of exports dropped from 30 to less than 5, according to Kalibabky.

Bismarck’s drop-site dumpsters are emptied three to four times per week, and the recyclables are transported to the Waste Management Twin Cities Materials Recovery Facility in Minneapolis, Minn., where they’re looked through, graded and audited. A chargeback is issued by the MRF for contamination.

A recent 36,000-pound load out of Bismarck was determined to have 7,000 pounds of contamination, which amounts to a contamination level of 20 percent. China desires no more than .005 percent contamination.

Another concern with the drop sites, according to Kalibabky, is the use of the dumpsters by non-Bismarck residents. He says he’s met people from Dickinson and rural Mandan at the sites, using the service for which Bismarck pays $2,025 per month.

“There’s definitely volume coming from just not the residents,” he said. “These are city services, and they’re coming from Dickinson.”

Commissioner Shawn Oban said he’s in favor of consolidating the drop sites.

“I don’t know how much longer we want to beat this horse,” he said. “The only people that are going to be upset about it are the people that were using it for free or shouldn’t have been using it in the first place.”

The city plans to place signs at the existing drop sites ahead of November's implementation, letting citizens know where they can take their recyclable materials.

Information also will be posted to the city's website,

(Reach Cheryl McCormack at 701-250-8264 or​


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