Board favors status quo on curbside recycling
Lawrence should continue to largely rely on a system of private companies to provide curbside recycling, according to a new set of recommendations from the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board.
The recommendations — which are similar to what the board tentatively proposed this summer — would require all private curbside recycling companies to register with the city, which will give the city more data about how many residents are recycling.
Currently, five companies provide curbside recycling services in Lawrence. The recommendations urge the city to create a marketing program to make residents more aware that private curbside services exist.
Commissioners are expected to review the recommendations in January.
- Chad Lawhorn
You’ve seen the type before.
It looks like they’ve unloaded an entire Wal-Mart truck in their house and then thrown away all the boxes on the curb. The rows of trash cans in the driveway look like an invading army of second-class robots. On trash day, neighborhood kids mistakenly think the pile of garbage sacks is a cool climbing wall.
In Lawrence, and many other cities, that guy pays the same amount for his monthly trash service as you do, even though you have so little trash that sometimes you have to be gently reminded (guys, we won’t say by whom) to take it out.
One Lawrence advisory board is now pushing for that type of pricing system to change.
The city-appointed Sustainability Advisory Board has forwarded a set of recommendations on how it believes the city’s trash collection system should be changed. Near the top of the list is implementation of a new “pay as you throw” system that would charge residents based on how much trash they take to the curb each week.
The board is clear about why it’s seeking the changes: to encourage more recycling.
“We realize that sometimes you have to have a stick and a carrot system to get people to change,” said Daniel Poull, chair of the sustainability board.
The board believes a pay-as-you-throw system can be implemented fairly simply without going to the hassle of weighing the amount of trash each household sets out or sending out specialized bills.
“We’re thinking the simpler the better,” Poull said.
The board did not provide specific recommendations on how the system should be set up, but Poull said discussion has centered on a uniform container system.
Under that type of system, every household in the city is given the same type of rolling cart container. Households are expected to fit all their week’s worth of trash into that one container. If they have trash that won’t fit, they’ll have to pay more.
A similar type of system has been in place in Eudora and De Soto for about two years, said Randy Weldon, who operates a privately owned trash service that has the refuse contracts in both towns.
“Recycling has gone through the roof,” Weldon said.
In De Soto, prior to the new system, he used to have to empty the town’s lone recycling container — a 15-yard divided Dumpster — about once per month. Now, he empties it about three times per week. Results have been similar in Eudora.
In Eudora and De Soto, households are given a 96 gallon trash container. If they routinely have more trash than can fit in that container, they can pay an extra $3 per month to receive a second container. If households only occasionally have more trash than can fit in the container, they can purchase bag tags from their City Hall. One tag, which costs a dollar, entitles the household to put out one bag in addition to their trash container.
Weldon thinks the changes have added fairness to the system.
“I guess the whole thing is with every other utility, you pay for what you use,” Weldon said. “I just think people need to be responsible for their trash too.”
Lawrence board members, though, know such a system in Lawrence may have its detractors.
“I don’t know what the overall feeling from the public would be,” Poull said. “I know people are happy with the service right now because there are no real restrictions, no real challenges. You can throw about anything away, and it gets picked up.”
There may be other concerns as well. Poull said the board has been told that the system may require hiring a new administrative position for the solid waste department. In tight budget times, that could be a deal killer.
In the past, concerns also have been expressed that a pay-as-you throw system would encourage some households to illegally dump their trash in commercial Dumpsters or elsewhere.
City Hall staff members are expected to deliver in January a report on the recommendations to city commissioners.
Lawrence staff members won’t be alone in studying the issue. The Johnson County Environmental Department recently recommended that all of Johnson County — both the cities and the rural areas — be required to use a pay-as-you-throw system. All licensed trash haulers in Johnson County also would be required to offer a curbside recycling service, said Betsy Betros, pollution control director with the department.
“There are over 6,000 of these programs in the country right now,” Betros said. “They have exploded in popularity because they are a driving force in recycling.”
The Johnson County Commission likely will consider those recommendations this spring.