The History of the Abilene Recycling Center & Our Partnership with OCCK
Recently, the City of Abilene and OCCK updated their contract for the Abilene Recycling Center. This update to the contract primarily changed their hours of operation. Beginning January 2nd, the Abilene Recycling Center will be open Tuesday through Friday from 8am-5pm and Saturday from 8am to 2pm. This change in hours allows the employees from OCCK to utilize the public transportation both to and from work. Previously, they would have been required to find other means of transportation when leaving work at 6pm.
In the early 90s, some individuals came together to try to create a recycling center. While this group had great intentions there was no real organization. At this time, the City Commission decided to move forward with a city-owned Recycling Center. Cliff Gibbs, Public Works Director at this time was tasked with making this facility and idea come to fruition. At this point, there were very few public owned recycling centers in Kansas in operation, so he ended up referencing one at Fort Riley and even a municipality in Missouri just to get ideas.
On October 1, 1994, the original 7,425 sq ft building opened for business. The city quickly realized that this building did not allow room to store baled material and a 2,500 sq ft addition was added within the first year of business. For the first 15 years, the recycling center was staffed entirely by full-time Public Works staff.
In 2009, Steve Gieber, an OCCK representative, approached Allen Dinkel, Abilene’s City Manager at the time, to suggest a possible partnership to employ OCCK staff at the center. For the next 3 years, OCCK & Public Works employee, George Kleinsorge, staffed the recycling center jointly. Upon George’s retirement, the contract was renegotiated and OCCK officially took charge of all the daily staffing and operations from then on. Today, Abilene Area OCCK Coordinator, Jenny Richardson oversees the staffing needs. The city owns the building, oversees the machinery and maintenance of the machinery and building and the processing part of the compost. Public Works Director Lon Schrader makes the arrangements for when materials need to be sold.
The recycling center gets its funding from a flat charge from all water customers. The baled and processed material is either sold directly to manufacturing plans in the Central US who utilize recycled materials in their products or is sold to a large recycling company in Kansas City, MO. Revenue from the sale of these materials also helps fund the operation of the center. They have also received Solid Waste Management Grants, administered by KDHE-SWM division to purchase a new woodchipper and forklift. The center is visited by an average of 25-30 users each day and processes 320-350 tons of recycled material annually.