City of Saline residents may soon say goodbye to their 16-gallon recycling tubs. In their place, if City Council votes for change at the Dec. 16 meeting, will be 96-gallon carts, the same size as the ones used to haul out the trash. As part of the new program, recycling would take place every other week instead of every week.
As the city negotiates a five-year with Waste Management (worth $600,000 last year), city leaders are looking for ways to reverse the declining recycling rate.
The diversion rate (total recyclables collected over the total waste generated) has dropped from 29.5 percent to 26.7 percent over the last three years. At the Dec. 2 city council meeting Patrick Greve, Public Sector Solutions Representative for Waste Management, said residents with carts are much more likely to bring their recyclables out to the curb. Greve told council that communities that use carts have a higher percentage of residents who recycle.
“You see two things happen. One, you see the average pounds of recycled goods per home increase. Most communities average in the neighborhood of four to five pounds a week. With these (carts) you see diversion rates of eight, 10 and 12 pounds, per unit, per week. So in some cases, you're getting almost double,” Greve said. “It's not just because of what fits in the container. It's also because of the number of people who participate. Usually, (with bins) you have 30 or maybe 40 percent of a community recycling – maybe 50 percent with a community that is really into recycling. With these programs, you usually see 60 or 70, or sometimes even 80 percent.”
Waste Management is offering to supply every residential customer with the 96-gallon cart (at a cost of $175,000 to $275,000) at no extra cost to the city or residents. If the current five-year deal on the table is accepted, the city would see no cost increase in the first year, and then increases tied to the consumer price index for the next four years.
One aspect that has some city councillors concerned is the switch from weekly to bi-weekly pickup. Though Councillor Lee Bourgoin eventually announced support for the program, he said he was concerned about going to bi-weekly pickup.
“It seems a little complicated to me. I don't like complicated things. Right now, everyone puts out their recyclables every week. Not everyone fills it up. I don't understand the reason for the change. From the point of view of the consumer, the less complicated, the better,” Bourgoin said.
DPW Director Jeff Fordice said he expected a little bit of “chaos” during an adjustment period, but Greve said he didn't think chaos was the right word. Greve said that other communities quickly adjusted to the bi-weekly pickups. He said that neighborhoods will quickly adopt unofficial “recycling captains" who help people stay on track.
“People look out their window to see if their 'recycling captain' has put their cart out, and that's how they know,” Greve said.
The city and Waste Management would also partner on a public education campaign that would include a calendar noted with recycling dates. Information would also be posted on the city's website.
Mayor Brian Marl said he liked his compact recycling bin and wasn't keen on the idea of making room for a 96-gallon cart – the same size as the trash cart – in his garage.
“I don't really want a big bulky cart in my garage. My criticism is just angst that's likely a flash in the pan, and I'm willing to move on with it,” Marl said.
Councillor David Rhoads said the city's Environmental Commission supports the program. He said one commissioner was concerned about whether or not senior citizens would have trouble with the larger carts.
“I'm an older person and I found it really easy. You just tilt it and push it,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads said that one advantage of having bi-weekly pick up would be reduced wear and tear on the city's roads.
The proposed five-year contract would Waste Management does not change commercial services. Here are a few other changes to residential waste pick up.
Other changes to single-family home service include:
The addition of fruit and vegetable waste to the yard waste collection program.
The addition of call-ahead, no-charge service to pick up branches (up to six inch diameter and eight feet long.)
The allowance of one bulk item per week without charge or call ahead.