It is often not pleasant, but sometimes it is necessary, to sort through the trash.
Essentially, that is what city commissioners recently agreed to do by committing to a full discussion regarding how the city’s trash service operates in the future.
The issue is sure to come with its own sort of gunk and grime.
One of the first points of discussion likely will be whether the city should change how it charges people for trash collection. The idea of implementing a pay-as-you-throw system has been recommended by the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board.
It would be a major change that could require people to put their trash in city-issued containers rather than just standard trash bags or cans. People who couldn’t fit their trash entirely in one container may have to rent another container, increasing their monthly trash bill.
But the idea is worth exploring. The price the city is charged to dump trash at the landfill is increasing. Figuring out how to recycle more and throw away less should be on everyone’s to-do list. Like everything surrounding this trash issue, the details of a new program will determine its success.
A second likely issue will be curbside recycling. Private providers now make it relatively easy to recycle in Lawrence, but talk continues of whether the city should offer its own service. Be prepared for a new wrinkle to be added to that debate — mandatory curbside recycling. Any serious look at the city’s trash system likely will consider whether all residents should be charged for curbside recycling services, regardless of whether they intend to use them or not.
The third issue promises to be the most controversial: privatization. City Commissioner Rob Chestnut rightly asked that the city keep an open mind about turning the city-operated trash service over to a private provider. That is a long ways from saying that the city ultimately should privatize its system. The city’s sanitation crews provide an outstanding service. A city-operated service keeps the system in the hands of elected officials who can easily be held accountable.
But those same elected officials also have a responsibility to be good stewards of the public’s money. If a private company can stretch the city’s dollars further, privatization at least deserves consideration.
City commissioners have done well in agreeing to tackle this odorous chore. Now, they should close their noses, and the rest of us should keep our minds open.