A city-run curbside recycling program may be coming to a curb near you in 2010.
City staff members are taking their hardest look yet at creating a pilot project to test the feasibility of a citywide curbside recycling service.
Leaders with the city’s public works department on Wednesday told members of the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board that they were considering a pilot project that would allow up to 2,000 homes around the city to sign up for a city-run, every-other-week curbside recycling program. The city would charge participating households a rate similar to what private curbside companies currently charge Lawrence residents.
Tamara Bennett, an assistant director for public works, said her department was recommending the option because it was seen as a way for the city to get into the curbside recycling business without forcing the at least five private companies that offer curbside recycling service in Lawrence out of business.
Owners of several of the private companies, however, weren’t so sure.
“I don’t understand what you are trying to do,” said Daron Trent, an owner of Lawrence-based Tree Hugger Recycling. “How is this different than what you have? You’re just adding a public option to the private options that already exist.”
But some members of the city’s advisory board said having the city offer a service might cause more people to think about signing up.
“If the city starts offering this, it might help some people see that this is not a freak-show hippie thing,” said Sarah Hill-Nelson, a member of the board. “People would see recycling is normal. Everybody does it. The city is involved.”
Board members said city involvement also may make the program more visible. “We have curbside recycling, but it is kind of invisible today,” said Daniel Poull, chair of the board.
But the board stopped well short of endorsing the public works department’s plan. Instead several other ideas were brought up for future consideration. They included:
• Licensing the private companies that provide service in the city. Some board members said if the companies would go through a licensing process, that the city may be comfortable in promoting the companies by placing their names and contact information on city utility bills mailed out each month.
• A recycling bin program that would require customers of the private companies to use a standardized recycling bin placed at the curb. The standardized bins would draw attention to the program, and make it more evident to passersby that curbside recycling services are offered in the city.
• A franchise system where the city would contract with one or more private companies to provide curbside recycling services to the entire city or specific neighborhoods in the city.
The board did not have discussion about creating a mandatory, citywide program that would require every household to pay for curbside recycling whether they used the service or not. Previous City Hall studies have estimated that weekly curbside service would add $12 per month to the bills of all customers, while every-other-week service would add $9 per month.
The city hasn’t prepared solid estimates on how much it would cost to create the proposed pilot program, although it would require the hiring of three new employees.
Ultimately, city commissioners will be responsible for deciding whether to move forward on a curbside recycling program.