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Kansas City is tackling trash with rolling recycling bins and a new composting program

A new recycle cart sits in city hall. They will begin rolling out May 1.
Chris Fortune
KCUR 89.3
A new, rolling recycle cart sits in city hall. The carts are one of several initiatives Kansas City leaders are introducing to divert waste from landfills.

Kansas City is looking for ways to reduce the amount of trash it generates. Officials say a composting program could keep 52 tons of food waste out of landfills.

Kansas City, Missouri, is launching a new composting program and expanding trash services to eliminate waste and work toward a more sustainable future.

New recycling carts will be available this spring, followed soon by rolling trash carts. The city is also trying to make it easier to throw away large items and is planning a citywide clean up event next month.

The announcements come as private developers explore the possibility of a potential landfill at the southeast edge of Kansas City — a project that council members and elected leaders across the region do not support. Opposition from surrounding cities and counties spurred Kansas City to place a moratorium on landfill permits until City Manager Brian Platt completes an evaluation of the city’s trash needs.

“We're not interested in more landfills and expanding the amount of waste going to landfills,” Platt said. “We're interested in reducing the amount of waste going to landfills and waste diversion from those landfills. Composting is one way to do it.”

A new composting program

Kansas City will pilot a subscription-based neighborhood composting program in the next few months, where residents can collect food waste in city-issued containers and then drop it off at sites across the city.

It’ll be paid for with a $300,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture and $250,000 from the city.

Other cities, like Olathe, launched composting programs earlier this year.

“The goal of this program is to decrease the food waste entering our landfills, to make compost readily accessible for urban agriculture uses, to reduce dependence on landfills and artificial fertilizers, and improve soil quality and rainwater absorption,” Sixth District council member Andrea Bough said.

An estimated 52 tons of food waste is expected to be diverted from local landfills through the program in its first year. The cost of the subscription service has not been worked out yet, but there will be 10 drop-off locations around the city.

“It will clearly start as a pilot, and so that allows us to even address if we want to have a real charge for those who may not be able to pay it,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said. “But I think our goal is to really get started on composting as a normal way of refuse, addressing issues here in Kansas City.”

Recycling carts will also begin rolling out in Kansas City on May 1. They will be available for free to all households with curbside collection. The new carts — which would be optional — feature a lid and are larger than the previous recycle bins.

Platt said open-topped bins are susceptible to strong winds that blow debris around neighborhoods.

“I go out personally and I pick it up around my neighborhood,” he said. “And that's one of the ways that we're noticing these things, is that people in our city are going out and picking up trash and telling us about the things that they're finding and thinking about ways to improve it.”

More information about how to request one of the new recycle carts will come soon. Trash carts with the same design will be arriving in a few months.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announces new plans to reduce waste, including a composting program.
Chris Fortune
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announces new plans to reduce waste, including a composting program.

Litter cleanup efforts

Lucas said illegal dumping sites in Kansas City have existed for years, many on Kansas City’s east side. He said his goal is to build a cleaner city by addressing neighborhood concerns that were not given enough attention in the past.

“I think our funding and our focus here allows us to do a lot more of that, making sure that that couch, that refrigerator doesn't end up on the side of the road somewhere in a ditch,” he said.

One solution to stop illegal dumping is to make bulky item pickup easier for people to schedule. First District council member Kevin O’Neill said the Northland’s bulky item pickup services have been neglected in recent years. A new citywide plan will allow bulky items to be picked up on the same day as trash pickups.

“So you can call on a Monday if you have a Wednesday pickup, and that'll be there for you to get rid of some of the bulky items,” O’Neill said. “One of the things I'm asked in all the neighborhood meetings I go to is ‘What are we doing about the trash pickup?’ And I am so excited that I can now go to those meetings and actually talk about a real plan.”

Fifth District council member Ryana Parks-Shaw gave an update on Clean Up KC, a program through the Hope Faith homeless shelter and other organizations, which provides part-time jobs picking up litter to people experiencing homelessness. Independence launched a similar program earlier this week.

Parks-Shaw said since the program launched in August, they have picked up 200,000 pounds of trash.

“That's the equivalent of about 1,000 households over a year's time,” she said. “So in six months, they have made a significant difference. But what I'm most proud about is the fact that we have been able to connect our unhoused residents with homes, permanent homes.”

The biggest complaint the city receives, Platt said, is about trash and debris along the highways. He said the partnership with the Missouri Department of Transportation has not been enough, so the city began hiring contractors.

“One of our teams was out actually this week and had some great evidence of before and after shots that we're gonna be sharing soon as well,” he said.

City officials also announced an event to welcome all residents to help beautify the city. The Great Kansas City Cleanup, where volunteers participate by helping pick up trash in parks, neighborhoods and city streets, will take place on Earth Day weekend from April 21 to April 23. Interested residents can sign up here.

“We're really excited about it,” Platt said. “Everybody who participates in that will, of course, get gloves and shirts and anything you need to collect waste.”

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