Following the announcement that Hopkinsville Solid Waste Enterprise will be working to create a new plan to reimplement the city’s recycling plan, HSWE General Manager Tony Sicari expanded on that announcement and spoke with the New Era on the future of the program.

However, prior to doing so, Sicari wanted to clear a misconception of HSWE.

Sicari shared that HSWE is not funded through taxpayer dollars and is funded entirely by revenue through service. Instead, HSWE is a partner with the City of Hopkinsville.

“We survive on revenue through service — not one penny of tax dollars that’s paid to the city goes to support Hopkinsville Solid Waste or the recycling program,” Sicari said. “It’s all ran through our office here. We are basically self-sufficient as far as revenue goes. Matter of fact, we give the city what’s called “Pilot Program” money, which is another word for a franchise fee.”

Sicari went on to say that HSWE pays the City of Hopkinsville roughly 5% of its monthly gross revenue to the Pilot Program. Since the inception of that program, HSWE has paid Hopkinsville $3.9 million as of last month, Sicari said.

In turn, the city helps back HSWE when applying for leases for its new trucks as Sicari shared HSWE gets new garbage trucks on an annual basis as part of its lease program.

“They back my leases for me, which basically says that if we (HSWE) miss a payment, the city would pay it,” Sicari said. “We’ve been on this program for eight years and we’ve never missed a payment and we’ve paid them off early. So, it’s a good partnership.”

Sicari also shared that HSWE also does not answer to the mayor or city council, but it does value the city’s input and works to answer any requests the city might have of the enterprise.

He clarified that HSWE is not a city department, but is instead a partner with the city and HSWE answers directly to its five-member board of directors. However, the current board does contain one city council member.

With that being said, after HSWE made the announcement that it would be terminating its recycling program after attempting to break even over the last several years, the enterprise, Sicari himself and the mayor received a considerable amount of feedback from the community.

That feedback prompted Sicari to meet with the HSWE board, later leading to the decision that HSWE step back from the recycling program and take 30 to 60 days to create a more viable plan to reintroduce the city’s recycling program with the goal of it breaking even.

Sicari also wanted to clarify that this means HSWE is no longer terminating the program and while the enterprise is working to create a new plan for the program, it will continue to pick up residential recycling for the customers currently in the program.

Sicari explained that HSWE’s goal for the residential curbside recycling program had always been to obtain between 2,500 — 4,500 customers in order to break even as the cost of starting the program had already put the enterprise in the hole.

He shared that to start the residential recycling program HSWE had to invest roughly $300,000, which was the cost to add parts to the garbage trucks, buy new recycling bins, buy and create advertisements and obtain other marketing materials.

Following the inception of the residential recycling program, it had gained roughly 700 customers and picked up quickly at first. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, numbers dwindled as the program had to be put on hold. After the program resumed, it did not gain many new customers and had never reached its goal to be able break even.

However, a rush of feedback following the announcement of the termination of the recycling program, HSWE and the board had decided to create a new plan to make it work and attempt to attract more customers than it did through its first three years.

Since then, both the South Western Kentucky Economic Development Council and the Christian County Chamber of Commerce have agreed to partner with HSWE to better market the program to the businesses in Hopkinsville.

Sicari continued to share that HSWE is already working on new plans for the program, looking at new avenues to generate buzz and attraction to the program.

“Right now we’re in the process of trying to find some ad agencies to see if they can help us,” Sicari said, adding that the enterprise is also talking with local radio stations to develop plans for radio advertisements and interviews.

He continued to say that he has also been in contact with several waste organizations throughout Kentucky and out of state to learn what they have done to promote their recycling programs and how they’ve succeeded.

Sicari also shared that the enterprise has begun a new referral program incentivizing and rewarding current recycling customers to refer new customers.

“If you’re a subscriber and you recommend your next door neighbor, he signs up and uses your name, I’ll give you $5 towards a month of service,” Sicari said. “You get two people signed up, I’ll give you $10 of free service.”

He shared that so far roughly 20 people have signed up under that program just from Facebook alone.

Sicari continued to state that the enterprise is continuing to research and find ways to make the program more viable before reintroducing it to the community.

In the meantime, however, customers can still sign up for the recycling program and Sicari encourages anyone interested to do so. The residential program currently costs an extra $5.50 per month on top of HSWE’s regular monthly service.

Sciari added that the extra $5.50 per month is less than what you would pay in gas to drive to another county to drop off recycling materials.

“We just want the public to be more involved and talk to their neighbors, friends, family and get people to sign up,” Sicari said, adding that he and the enterprise are always open to receiving additional feedback and suggestions regarding the recycling program.

To sign up for the program you can call HSWE at 270-887-6245 or email Sicari directly at ASicari@hswa.us.

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