Recycling service may end in Eureka without service fee

By Holly Eitenmiller For Chronicle Media

Changes to the recycling market, specifically a drop in cardboard prices, has forced the Association for the Developmentally Disabled of Woodford County to require a monthly service fee to keep the operation going for residents and businesses in the city of Eureka. (Photo courtesy of ADDWC)

It may be an unpopular decision,  but come Jan. 1, the recycling center at 200 Moody St. in Eureka will close its doors for good if the community does not swiftly intervene.

The hard fact is that the ailing recycling industry took a severe downturn, with prices plummeting so steeply that the Association for the Developmentally Disabled of Woodford County can no longer provide free recycling services to Eureka residents as it has for 15 years.

“If funding comes through, we will welcome continuing the service, but we’re prepared to stop it December 31,” ADDWC President Keith McCardle said. “It’s felt like ADDWC has wanted recycling for Eureka more than the city council wants it.”

McCardle is blunt. Time is running short, leaving little time to mince words. He admits that when he met with the council in early May, there was a slim chance for the facility’s survival. At that meeting, Mayor Scott Zimmer and his wife, Lisa, personally committed to raising $10,000 per year to help.

Councilmember Laurie Klaus, Ward I, suggested the city donate funds as an investment in the the community. According to an unattributed quote in the council minutes, another member said, “ADDWC is a non-profit, and we cannot give to these service organizations.”

According to McCardle, 52 percent of ADDWC’s recyclable material comes from Eureka, with most of it being cardboard, which, on the market, falls under the OCC category. Every month in 2019, OCC prices dropped, and by August the price was $28 per ton, a 25-year low.

The Zimmers’ generous commitment would only serve as a small bandage for the rapidly-expanding budget.

“Since that meeting, the market for recyclables has continued to diminish. Now there’s a $30,000 loss just in Eureka’s recycling program,” Zimmer said. “Because of that, ADDWC now believes that is just not sustainable. The original $10,000 does not meet their needs.”

But, could the answer be as simple as a large supreme pizza from Casey’s General Store? Kyle Wurmnest, and other concerned community members say so.

“For $1.30 a month, we can keep this program going. They’ve been offering it for free for 15 years, and other communities are paying for their services,” Wurmnest said. “That’s $15.60 per year. That’s one Casey’s pizza.”

For 15 years, the Association for the Developmentally Disabled of Woodford County has offered free recycling services to Eureka residents, while providing meaningful work to local adults with disabilities. (Photo courtesy of ADDWC)

He’s right about the pizza. And he’s also correct in stating that the recycling services are funded in other Woodford County towns. El Paso, Minonk and Goodfield each contribute to ADDWC for recycling services. The village of Metamora offers recycling through PDC Area at around $24 per month per household.

For Wurmnest, and an expanding number of other Eureka residents, funding ADDWC’s doesn’t come down to market trends or profit versus loss comparisons. It comes down to people, the more than 40 disabled adults who find the work meaningful and purposeful.

“If we lose the recycling, we not only lose a valuable service, but it’s just a disservice to take away jobs from the clients they serve,” Wurmnest said. “They’re bringing Maurie’s here now, a business that will help the community and help with economic development.”

On Dec. 2, Wurmnest launched an online petition for Eureka residents to sign electronically in support of implementing a $1.30 monthly fee to continue the recycling program. He, and other outspoken proponents of the fee, like Olivia Williams, are hoping the community’s voice will sway the council’s vote.

The Eureka City Council will meet at The Crate, 203 Bullock St., on Monday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Eureka residents in support of the ADDWC fee can access the online petition by visiting his Facebook page, which is found by searching for his name. The petition will be available until Dec. 14 at 5 p.m.