BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Less than a minute drive from historic downtown Elgin, located inside a dirt lot surrounded by a chain-link fence, sat a very popular recycling bin that was free to use for anyone.

Jeff Asmussen, who lives about five miles south of Elgin, said he would use the bin every week to dispose of his recyclables.

“Well Monday, Wednesday, and maybe Friday,” Asmussen explained his weekly drop-off schedule.

Asmussen and his other neighbors are now gathered in the city’s Veteran’s Memorial park, just a minute away from the recycling bin, to push for the bin to be opened back to the public.

“We would like to find a way to continue that service,” Rick Nalle, another regular user of the recycling bin, said.

History of the recycling bin

The recycling bin was first offered to the public by the city of Elgin. After the city started offering curbside recycling services for its residents, it moved the bin to county property. The county then started to pay for the service for the residents.

About a month ago, the bin was closed to the public. A sign on the fence now says, “No dumping.”

Bastrop County Precinct 4 Commissioner David Glass said the bin cost $110,000 every year to operate. Glass had an issue with where in the budget that money was coming from. The money was being pulled from the county’s Road and Bridge budget.

Glass said there are 230 miles of roads in his precinct that need to be maintained.

“These funds are to be spent as the name reflects, “Roads and Bridge” and not other services,” Glass said in a written statement to KXAN.

Glass also explained that not everyone would use the bin for recyclable materials. The bin would also fill up very fast and people would throw bags of recyclables on the ground around the bin area.

He said a county employee would have to regularly go out there to clean the area up.

If the county did reopen the bin, Glass said they would need to hire a full-time employee to monitor the area, which could cost another $40,000 to the budget, according to Glass.

Asmussen, Nalle, and others who used the bin regularly, Nalle said he had been using it for 15 years, say continuing a recycling service is necessary.

“We understand there’s always going to be budget problems. Let’s figure out how we can fund a new recycling program in Elgin,” Nalle said.

Alternative recycling solutions

The people who are pushing for reopening the county-operated recycling bin do not live within the city limits of Elgin, and therefore, are not eligible for the curbside recycling services.

Asmussen said there are no other alternatives that are as convenient for him and his neighbors. He explained that without the bin, his trash has tripled and his recycling has gone down to zero because he can not store his recyclables.

Other people have been storing their recyclables at home and it is starting to pile up. One woman said she was taking her recyclables to her child’s home, who lives in Austin and has access to curbside recycling services.

Recyclables are piling up in people’s homes who lost access to a nearby free recycling bin (Photo Courtesy: Lorin Witta)

Asmussen said he could take his recyclables to a recycling bin in Smithville, but it’s about a 30 mile drive from Elgin. Asmussen said wasting that amount of gas every week would have negative impacts on the environment, counteracting what he is trying to do by recycling.

Asmussen has also explored a third party company that offers curbside recycling services, but he does not want to pay the $60 monthly charge for it.

“There aren’t any good alternatives. They’re all bad,” Asmussen said.

Glass said there were other options for people to recycle in the county. He offered this list to KXAN.

Finding a solution

Asmussen, Nalle, and their neighbors want to find a solution with the county. Glass said he is willing to work with people to find a solution, but said the money would not be coming from the Road and Bridge fund.

“I do not have the funds in the budget to pay for this. I was elected to be a good steward of the county monies for precinct 4. With over 230 miles of road to maintain, Precinct 4 needs every dollar in our budget to go towards maintaining roads,” Glass said in a statement.