Sunday, October 19, 2014

Upcoming Opportunities to Improve Efficiency, Service and Recycling by Public Entities and Facilities in Helena


I submitted the following document to the Helena City Commission and city staff regarding recycling last Wednesday at an administrative meeting. As I write here, our community has a great opportunity to improve efficiency, increase recycling, and address household hazardous waste.  This direction is fiscally and environmentally responsible; it meets the promises made when the transfer station and landfill were established.  

The final "Operational Efficiency Study of Solid Waste System" is not yet available. However, the "short-term" items listed below are improvements that can be implemented in coming months and guided by the final study.  The recommendations are based on the draft report, long standing and recent city commission discussions and meetings, your suggestions, and my experience in the recycling field.  I suspect the primary recommendation by city and county staff will be to pursue new political and fiscal structures for the current waste utilities, the transfer station, and public landfill. Such an exploration, if it is indeed warranted, should not delay implementing the concepts below and exploring the additional items outlined here

I proposed the City join this study nearly a year ago, in part to prevent plans by city staff at the executive level to spend a million dollars on capital projects that were not needed. The projects did not include looking at improved recycling, additional waste diversion, or addressing household hazardous waste.  The draft report validates concerns raised that the projects were not needed. Thankfully, the projects were not build and the funds remain available for investment in improved services for Helena. 


- Matt E

Matthew Elsaesser, Commissioner
City of Helena, Montana, USA
316 N Park, 59625

[ Start Document Text]

Recycling and efficiency improvements at the City of Helena Transfer Station and Lewis & Clark County Landfill:


1.  Allow Scratch Gravel Solid Waste District permit holders to replace lost permits at the transfer station, charge a convenience fee if necessary.

2.  Establish trial winter hours at the transfer station that may include closing one day a week (Monday for example) and limiting hours on other days (10a.m. to 4:45p.m., two hours less, on Sundays for example).

Distributed to the City of Helena Commission and city staff
by Commissioner Elsaesser at October 15, 2014, at a
City of Helena administrative meeting. Click to view.
3.  Allow the landfill to close on weekends during winter, either Saturday or Sunday or both days, unless transfer station makes an appointment for the landfill weekend during the business week.

4.  Extend the default replacement cycle for all trucks and equipment based on savings seen by extending the life of the city residential fleet and deferred replacement of landfill equipment outlined in the draft solid waste efficiency study.

5.  Consolidate recycling area to allow recycling common items from one parking area, add shelter for staff and recyclers, and evaluate using an automated compactor for cardboard. [details and examples posted here here]

click on link below for full post containing this graphic
Image from recent post

6.  Cancel additional shop and expanded contractor bays at transfer station [discussed here]. 

7.  Charge tipping fee for bio-solids to cover costs of composting program.

8.  Reimburse recycling program for motor oil used for heating based on market rate.


1. Evaluate RFP’s for various levels of recycling services at the transfer station, a modified blue bag program, and full-service or partnerships with curbside service.

2. Setup unloading areas separate from tipping floor for trailers of heavy C & D waste, soft fill, and non-dumping trailers.

3. Establish a point system for residential customers to replace tonnage quota to allow accounting for higher cost disposal items such as electronic and household hazardous waste.

4. Approach Scratch Gravel/County regarding a renter permit for recycling similar to city’s renter recycling permit.