Archive for Thursday, March 6, 2008

Public or private?

A number of private businesses already are doing a good job of providing curbside recycling services in Lawrence.

March 6, 2008


Many Lawrence residents already have shown that they are willing to pay something for the service of having recyclable materials collected at their homes.

That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that city government should get into the curbside recycling business. Lawrence already has numerous recycling options that cost residents nothing. For those who want curbside recycling, a number of private companies offer a variety of options at prices that the city almost certainly won't be able to match.

City officials are conducting a survey this month in which they will ask about 400 residents to describe their attitudes toward recycling and asking them if they would be willing to spend from $6 to $15 a month to provide a municipal curbside recycling service. The question the survey should help answer is: Although many local residents say they want curbside recycling, are they willing to pay for it?

It would not be an inexpensive service. City officials say that curbside recycling would require the addition of 16 collection vehicles and about 25 city employees. It would cost an estimated $5.6 million to start such a program plus another $2 million a year to keep it running. That translates into an additional $12 a month on residential utility bills to provide weekly curbside recycling pickups.

Everyone would pay that fee, but not everyone would use the service. Why not let private enterprise continue to do this job?

The city's Web site lists five private firms that let Lawrence customers tailor the frequency and cost of their curbside recycling service to their individual needs. Those who can make due with one pickup a month can get that service for $6 a month. Those that need a pickup every other week can get that for $10 a month. A weekly pickup may be slightly more than the estimated $12 a month that would be added to city utility bills, but most people simply don't have that much to recycle.

For that matter, most people can drop off recyclable cardboard, newspaper and mixed paper on their way to the grocery store, which may also offer to recycle plastic grocery bags, at NO cost. Glass, plastic and other materials can be dropped off for free at a few local recycling centers.

The city may realize a small savings by reducing the amount of trash it takes to the landfill, but the current low landfill fees would make the savings minimal. Curbside recycling is primarily a matter of convenience, but that convenience already is readily available for anyone in Lawrence who wants to pay a nominal fee to take advantage of it.

It will be interesting to see the results of the current city survey on recycling, but those who want a municipal curbside recycling program should be careful what they wish for. Private enterprises already offer a variety of curbside recycling choices - including the choice to opt out and pay nothing - that a one-size-fits-all government service simply couldn't match.


Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 1 month ago

Right now, there is a continent-sized patch of plastic floating in the middle of the pacific. Surely, some of that came from Lawrence, KS.

But after skimming this editorial, I notice that nowhere does it mention benefits to the environment that would come from curbside recycling in Lawrence. It's obvious that thousands more would recycle their plastics, their cans, etc.

In Europe they pay for this by charging for hauling away regular garbage over a certain amount -- say one Hefty bag per household. Those who generate the most waste pay more, and the incentive to recycling is built in.

Anyway, that probably makes too much sense for us. Instead, I suggest you all ask yourselves what kind of planet we should leave for our kids.

Mark Zwahl 10 years, 1 month ago

The writer of this article attempts to argue that curbside recycling by the city is a bad idea with presumptions about the implementation (e.g. all will pay, some won't use - implemented by the city, etc.) and with ignorance. The article states "Lawrence already has numerous recycling options that cost residents nothing." Now see, that's not thinking. It DOES cost us something. It costs me collecting stuff until I happen to be going the direction of a recycling center. It costs many people who make a special trip. Trips in vehicles are using the roads, which seem to not hold up well to much traffic (notice repairs on fairly recently resurfaced streets). To say anything costs nothing is naive and ignores the realities we live in. And, who says the city has to run this? I'm not at all convinced the city looks at the big picture over time when it comes to costs and efficiency.

baby_girl 10 years, 1 month ago

I believe recycling should be available to everyone that wants to do it. The best thing that companies can do would be to quit using or cut back on the products that are hard to recycle such as plastics #5-9. I like the fact that one city in CA banned the use of plastic bags. All it is is for convenience. However, I've noticed an increase in the plastic bag recycling areas in stores lately. It's the small steps that make a big difference. Can Lawrence not foot the cost of this? It's absurd that this would add $6 to $12 PER MONTH for a weekly recycling pickup when most people don't produce enough to have to recycle once a week. As a single person, I produce maybe enough to recycle once a month. I'm opting to continue to allow residents to recycle of their own accord. It's not the consumers faults that they have to buy products in excessive packaging that can be recycled. I'm proud of those that do care enough to recycle, but don't force people to pay for something that could be easily solved by placing centers in the 4 corners of Lawrence instead of just wal-mart and 12th street bargain center. The bins placed around town are great, but they don't cover everything. Come on city of Lawrence, I'm sure you can provide bins and pickup at a lower cost than charging everyone $6 to $12 a month for a service that they might not even use. I enjoy recycling, but forcing me to pay for a service that is currently free is going to make me not want to do it anymore. Think about that. Thanks!!

tir 10 years, 1 month ago

I think I already pay too much to the city for trash pickup, and I don't want to have to pay extra for curbside recycling. It's way cheaper for me to take my recyclables to Walmart once a month than to pay the City an additional $10-15 a month to pick the stuff up at my house. Personally I'd rather have the choice between using a private service or hauling the stuff myself. If the City starts a curbside recycling program which forces everyone to pay $10-15 extra whether they use it or not, I will have no choice at all.

GSWtotheheart 10 years, 1 month ago

I recycle aluminum cans and that's it. Don't force me to pay for a service I'm not going to use. Keep your laws off my garbage! And my body!

pace 10 years, 1 month ago

THe ljw world want someone else to take the responsibility, They want the consumer to carry the responsibility of their own product, the paper. IT is cool as long as the LJW can shed themselves of any responsibility. Always ask the person doing more than others to do more. Every home, apartment and office in this town has a percentage of paper in their trash. Put in an a bag or bin and set it out. if the city want to contract with the curbside collectors, thats fine. If they want to get a reasonable plan from Sanitation, great. Yoos won't be the guy to come up with it.. Everyone contracting on their own or driving it to drop off sites is inconvenient and relies on everyone having, time and access. Curbside pickup, either by contract with the city or by the city makes more sense. The ljW, like many corporations refuse to admit that some of the responsibility of their product should be theirs. They pretend it is just the consumers responsibility to care about resources and the environment. They are shirking here.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 1 month ago

There are several options missing from this article which at some point need to be clarified. One such option does include the opportunity for existing collectors to be players.

Steve Clark 10 years, 1 month ago

Living in Seattle in the late 80's, we already had curbside recycling. We were also charged extra for any amount of trash over one bag. Each additional bag cost $5 at that time. I don't remember anyone complaining that the value of the service was not worth the cost. So why all the whining and consternation about costs? Capitalism is simply not capable of solving the problems of the world by itself. Articles like this serve only as distractions. The government's role in our society is to work to the benefit of all...including future generations. The only way the selfish and the greedy will be enabled to do the right thing, is to have the government successfully "encourage" citizens to protect the environment. There are great examples of how to do this that have existed for years. Do we Kansans always have to be the last one's to catch on?

Steve Clark 10 years, 1 month ago

OK hawk, I'll be happy to add exclusionary and east-coast-phobic to selfish and greedy if you'd like.

But you're bold to try to support Kansans' protection of the environment...very bold...especially on the heals of the "coal bill" passing in Topeka.

Steve Clark 10 years, 1 month ago

that's very nice JLoh...thank you. Your points about recycling and the environment are very well put.

countryguyks 10 years, 1 month ago

I totally beleive in ReCyling ! But the city of Lawrence dont need to be in it!

I am amazed and happy to see the amount of folks that go to the Walmart Recyling center to drop stuff of and thats great!

What I don't get is Walmart acts like they are doing some great deal While they are actually making huge Profits off this!

There are other places in Lawrence where you can take you stuff and they will actually pay you cash for them. One place is a small business on Haskel thay will pay you CASH for you can's etc!

Kornphlake 10 years, 1 month ago

countryguyks says: "What I don't get is Walmart acts like they are doing some great deal While they are actually making huge Profits off this!"

Yeah, as an employee at the recycling center I'm gonna have to go ahead and ask you to check your facts before spouting off some nonsense like that again. Walmart takes a hit almost every month from the recycling center.

Steve Clark 10 years, 1 month ago

Multi...look into how the pay per extra bag works in other cities. They don't have to do any of the things you indicate. If there isn't a tag on the extra bag they don't pick it up. You buy the tags at grocery stores and other places. No extra work for the collection folks in terms of quantity or tracking. There is a slight extra bit of work since now they are picking up 4 kinds of bags instead of 4 bags of the same kind.

Hawk...your accusations seem to indicate a fearfulness of people not like yourself. That must be an uncomfortable way to live. None the less, no one I know has been "shoved out back east" and I don't think that having an opinion on recycling identifies someone for being a pushy east coast bully. (I've never lived on the east coast btw)

wakeup 10 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence already has the highest recycling rate then any other city in the state. You can not force participation.

christie 10 years, 1 month ago

What isn't mentioned here is the savings from land-fill use. When large percentages recycle, the amount of hauling to land-use goes down dramatically. This saves a huge amount of money that can offset the costs enough to pay for the program.

I know this for a fact, as we currently enjoy this benefit where I live in another state.

If you're not recycling, you're just throwing it all away.

malehrman 10 years, 1 month ago

I think many who argue against curbside recycling while in support of maintaining the current recycling and waste programs have ulterior motives.

The editorial suggests that people who want curbside can pay for it on their own without drawing the entire city into the equation. That may be a reasonable argument, especially because of the multiple curbside options available in town. However, the editorial does a poor job of addressing the issue of everyone paying the same amount for trash removal regardless of the amount disposed. Many commenters note the "pay-as-you-throw" system as a positive change. I agree. If you don't want to pay for me to recycle at home, fine. I don't want to pay for your multiple bags of trash weekly when I throw one bag or less per week.

Further, stating that "most people don't have that much to recycle" is simply untrue. Many more items are recyclable than most people think. I don't seek out items that come in recyclable packages and I didn't change my purchasing habits when I started to recycle (taking recyclabes to WalMart). But, as mentioned, I did cut my trash from 3 or more bags per week down to one by recycling.

If you want to argue "I'll pay for mine, you pay for yours," at least offer readers the courtesy of acknowledging flaws in the current system.

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