Recycle Systems of Kirkland, Washington is installing new baler equipment in Petersburg this week. This is the new conveyor that will move trash and recycled materials into the baling machine. (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

Borough officials assured the assembly Monday that Petersburg’s curbside recycling program will be restarting this fall, after replacement of the solid waste baler is completed.

Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht told the assembly he’s heard concern from the public that the temporary suspension of that service is a permanent one.

“I’ll say again, we’re going to reinstate,” Giesbrecht said. “We’ll put recycling back in operation as soon as the baler’s done. We’ll get the rate study done and then come back to the assembly with a full blown, here’s all the numbers, here’s how it’s going. Here’s what the commodity prices are and at that point you know look to the assembly to tell us how you want to proceed.”

Petersburg has stopped its curbside collection of comingled material while new equipment is installed at the baler facility. During that work the borough does not have the space to store unbaled recyclables out of the rain and weather, until it can be baled and shipped to Seattle.

The recycling program may be seeing some changes after it restarts however. The price for the material has plunged, making it more expensive to reuse that paper, cardboard, plastic and aluminum, compared to just sending it to a landfill.

Local resident Tor Benson suggested one possible way forward.

“So the consensus has been that glass isn’t a recyclable item so now we’re just crushing it,” Benson told the assembly. “And I think paper’s also on that same, if you look at the economics behind it. Cardboard is recyclable and you actually, people want to recycle it, there’s money to be made, and also metals. And so if we like concentrated maybe our recycling efforts just on those two where we look at cardboard and metals, aluminum, tin, so that the program maybe actually makes money. That might be a more efficient method.”

Benson also suggested an education effort to spread the word about cleaning that material before its collected. He also thought collection could be reduced to once a month.

The borough is having garbage rates studies this year and the assembly may consider changes to the recycling program. Another possibility is having customers sort their material and dropping it off at a collection point.

“This would be a good opportunity to kind of roll that into when we start collecting it again,” said assembly member Jeff Meucci. “I think having a work shop or work session with (public works director Chris Cotta) and a few folks, just trying to sort out what some of the ideas are, so that, when it’s time, we don’t have to go back and reinvent the wheel and tell people no they can’t throw away this, this is what we want to do just to start this program again. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

The baler replacement could take six weeks and is costing the borough just over 535,000 dollars for the new equipment. It’s used to compact and wrap trash and recyclables for shipping out of town.