For the past 16 months our city has conducted a pilot to test public interest in the recycling of garbage. I commend our city leaders for launching the pilot that provided free of charge a twice-a-month curbside recycling for 800 residents.
It was wise to test the water because of the expense of recycling. The results are in and the pilot program was a success. Seventy percent of the residents participated, but the program was expensive to the city. With the program scheduled to end at the end of October, city leaders are searching for options. Should the program end or be expanded? I would like to offer for discussion purposes an alternative.
In search of solutions, the city issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) from recycling companies to ascertain the cost of instituting a city-wide curbside program. The cost estimates from three companies for twice- a-month curbside pickup ranged from $1.68 million to $1.9 million per year.
One company offered an “Opt-in” program where residents could participate and pay for twice-a-month curbside recycling at a greatly discounted price from what the company is now charging city residents.
As a result of the success of the program, I believe we should take the next step in recycling in the city. I would like to propose some principles on (moving) forward.
*The city should encourage recycling in a fiscal conservative approach and encourage residents to participate.
*One of the most important features of an expanded recycling program is to be sure the collected trash is recycled and not go to the landfill. Many local landfills are nearing capacity and the cost to use them is increasing. It is responsible for cities to reduce waste going to landfills by recycling. The company the city selects must prove that collected recyclables will not go to a landfill.
*The expanded program should not be funded with higher taxes. Our city recently increased property taxes and we should not raise taxes again. A recycling program should be resident-driven and funded by (its) users.
*Any savings generated by recycling should benefit the residents in the program. The city pays tipping fees for depositing its trash to landfills. Last year the city paid approximately $1 million in tipping fees. By recycling, the city is expected to save on its tipping fees. These savings should be passed back to the residents annually through a “recycling dividend.” While this savings is relatively small, it may still provide an incentive for expanding recycling and ensures participants will reap any benefit.
*The city should explore all options for grants, both public and private sectors, that might help offset some of the initial startup cost for recycling. I understand such grants may be available for the purchase of recycling carts.
*The city should provide options to residents for recycling by establishing a site for recycling drop-off bins.
By applying these principles, I would propose that the city select the “Opt in” option with the providing of an annual “recycling dividend” to those residents that participate in the program. This option will significantly reduce the current recycling fee paid by residents in the city, and also hopefully encourage others to participate without placing additional cost on the city.
Further, I would propose the city work toward establishing a “drop off” recycling site where residents who don’t participate in the “Opt in” option can recycle.
I know some will say this is not enough and that the city should more boldly embrace a city-wide curbside city-funded program. We may one day do just that, but considering the cost and the fact we just raised taxes, I feel this approach is a more common sense next step in the evolution of recycling in the city.
Don’t let excellence be the enemy of the good. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to make recycling work in our city.
Eddie Roberson serves as a Ward 6 Alderman in Hendersonville.