Discussions about the future of recycling in Winfield and Arkansas City continue, with a focus on reducing the amount of contamination in recycled materials.

During a recent audit of the recycling streams in both Winfield and Arkansas City, material samples were taken from 80 customer recycling carts in Winfield and one community recycling trailer in Arkansas City. The data from these samples showed a contamination rate of 16 percent in Winfield and 22 percent in Arkansas City, based on the weight of the materials collected.

The average contamination rate between the two cities was 19 percent. The contaminating materials included plastic bags, clothing, luggage, food, wood and styrofoam, according to a letter from Winfield City Manager Taggart Wall to City Manager Nick Hernandez of Arkansas City.

With the current sorting methods used at the joint recycling center in Strother Field, any contamination jeopardizes the entire recycling stream. Contaminated materials are not handpicked out, but are removed with a large grapple the ends up removing “clean” material along with the contaminants, the letter said. These materials are then transported to the landfill.

“As you know, we are continuing to examine options for moving forward. That examination and consideration of options will likely mean a future change in what our shared, but different operations look like,” the letter said.

During a presentation at the work session Thursday, Winfield public improvements director Patrick Steward and sanitation superintendent Shawn Mugler presented information on the number of tons of recyclables lost to contamination.

In 2019 so far, out of 1,015 tons of recyclables collected in both cities, only 545 tons of it was actually recycled. For 2019, the City of Winfield will lost a projects $119,000 on the recycling program.

The two cities plan to roll our additional education about recycling to customers that explains the current situation and the need to recycle in a manner that makes every effort to reduce contamination, said the letter.

This educational campaign will include information on what are considered “clean” recyclables and what are not.

Wall said Thursday that there is a commitment to recycling locally, and no one wants to see the program shut down.

Wall said a recommendation on what to do regarding the future of the recycling program will be presented to Winfield city commissioners at a later date.

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