Group Requests City Revisit Recycling


Residents can concur, comment via petition

By Michael McAllister

Grinnellians who do not wish to see the city discontinue curbside recycling can make their feelings known through an online petition created by Grinnell Cares, an organization made up of community members who respectfully ask city officials to reconsider ending recycling as it now exists in Grinnell.

“Please join us in petitioning the city council to reconsider its decision to end curbside recycling,” urges Ryan Ferguson of Grinnell on the petition website at

The petition statement readily acknowledges that continuing curbside recycling will come with a cost. Signatories “request that Mayor Agnew and members of the Grinnell City Council approve a sanitation fee that includes continued curbside recycling as part of the city’s utility bill to each household.”

However, additional information accessible through the petition statement details ways that the cost can be absorbed by individual households.  For example, if curbside recycling were to continue, some Grinnell households might be able to offset part of the recycling fee by using a smaller waste receptacle than they would otherwise require.

The petition statement acknowledges also that households should take steps to reduce and take more care with recyclables.  Such steps lower the costs of recycling for the city, making the process more efficient and sustainable.  Information presented with the petition details seven steps that residents can take to reduce both waste and recyclables.  

Screen shot of the main page of the online petition. Links on the petition page take readers to additional information and opportunities to comment and sign.

The petition and its associated information are notable for their calm, respectful tone.  A portion of the petition statement thanks “Mayor Agnew and Council Members Bly, Burnell, Hansen, Hueftle-Worley, White, and Wray for reading and considering our petition” and closes by declaring “We appreciate your service to our wonderful community.”

Grinnell City Manager Russ Behrens discusses recycling issues with Our Grinnellin January 2018. He has long advocated reducing both waste and recyclables.  We all feel good when we recycle, he acknowledges, but he stresses that we should concentrate more on reducing what we recycle.

Whatever the outcome of Grinnell’s recycling issue and the Grinnell Cares petition, one conclusion can be drawn without doubt: It is possible to suggest an alternative to a plan one does not favor in a measured, thoughtful, logical, respectful manner.  The people behind Grinnell Cares have done that.  

“We want to be partners with you [city officials], not adversaries,” they state.

Communities throughout the United States are being forced to reassess the value of recycling.  The problem “all stems from a policy shift by China, long the world’s leading recyclables buyer,” according to an October 2018 report from CBS News.

In the country as a whole, ““There is a significant disruption occurring to U. S. recycling programs.”  This conclusion comes from David Biderman, executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America, in connection with a May 29, 2018, New York Timesarticle that detailed problems confronting the recycling industry as a result of stricter requirements imposed by China.

But the market for recyclables has been decreasing for some time, and Grinnell officials have proactively sought a solution.

Some residents respectfully want the city to reconsider its solution, and they invite others comment, to learn, and to join them at

The petition is valuable in three ways:  First, it offers residents of Grinnell an opportunity to express opinions about their city’s solution to the recycling dilemma.  Second, it educates individuals as to what they can do to make recycling more efficient and therefore more viable.  Finally, it demonstrates that opposing opinions can be presented civilly and respectfully.


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