Armond Enclard sure thought the environment in Lawrence was right for his recycling company — Doorstep Recycling and Waste Service — to grow.
After all, city leaders have been spending a lot of time and effort studying ways to boost recycling in Lawrence.
Enclard, on the other hand, has spent a lot of time actually picking up recycling. Five days a week, he goes to every unit in The Connection apartment complex at 31st and Ousdahl in south Lawrence. He picks up both trash and recycling that residents have left outside their doors. He then deposits the trash in one of the apartment complex’s Dumpsters — which are serviced by the city — and the recycling in a bin serviced by Deffenbaugh Industries. Enclard said recycling at the complex has increased by more than 30 percent since he began the service in March.
Enclard said he could have the same type of success at several other apartment complexes if the city would make what he believes is a slight adjustment to how it bills apartment complexes for their trash service.
But instead, Enclard said, he’s learned that at City Hall green doesn’t always mean go.
“I’m pretty frustrated at the city,” Enclard said. “They talk a lot about wanting small businesses to prosper and want to be creative in helping people recycle, but they don’t seem willing to find creative ways to make things work.”
City officials disagree with that assessment, but more on that in a moment.
First you need to understand a little about trash and apartment complexes in Lawrence. Almost all apartment complexes rely on Dumpsters that are picked up by the city. But not all Dumpsters in the city are created equal.
Some apartment complexes pay a monthly per-Dumpster fee to the city. Apartments with this type of arrangement generally are the type where water and trash are included in the monthly rent paid to the landlord. The city simply sends one water/trash bill to the owner of the complex.
But many apartment complexes have individual water meters for each apartment. That means the tenants of each apartment receive the water and trash bill. The apartment complexes are still served by Dumpsters, but the city simply sets out enough Dumpsters to take care of the demand. Apartment complex owners pay nothing for trash under that arrangement, but each tenant pays the city the standard residential trash rate of $14.94 per month.
Enclard wants the city to add a third option. He wants an option where water bills would continue to be sent to the tenants of apartments, but a single trash bill would be sent to the owner of the complex.
Enclard said he has six to seven apartment complexes that have expressed an interest in his service if that billing change could be made. Enclard said the change is important because it makes his service financially feasible for apartment complexes.
Currently, Enclard charges the owner of an apartment complex $7 per month, per unit to provide the five-day-a-week service. Apartment owners, he said, are hesitant to add an extra $7 per month onto the rental rates they charge tenants if the tenants are also paying the city $15 per month for trash service.
But if the apartment complex is able to pay for trash based on how many Dumpsters it uses, the financial equation changes, Enclard said. If Enclard does his job well and gets apartment residents to recycle, the number of Dumpsters needed at an apartment complex drops significantly.
At The Connection, the number of Dumpsters has gone from 12 that were emptied twice per week to nine that are emptied once per week. Enclard said that has saved the complex — which is billed by the Dumpster because it has a single water meter — about $2,000 per month.
Enclard contends that if all apartment complexes had that option, similar savings could be had. The end result, he believes, is that apartment owners and tenants would be able to receive trash and recycling services for about the same amount they currently pay just for trash.
“I feel like I have found a way, using the city’s own system, to provide better service and increase recycling, but the city keeps saying no,” Enclard said.
But that’s not how the city views it. Instead, several city leaders indicated that Enclard’s third option would open up a can of worms.
Public Works Director Chuck Soules, who oversees the city’s sanitation division, said Enclard simply is providing an additional service beyond what the city provides. That’s no different from what Deffenbaugh or other private companies do that offer curbside recycling to single-family residences.
“If this idea works to increase recycling, that is great,” Soules said. “But it is an enhancement to a service, and people don’t get a break on their city bill if they subscribe to Deffenbaugh’s recycling service.”
Enclard, though, said that’s not a good analogy because the city already has a system in place that allows some apartment complexes to pay by the Dumpster. He just wants apartment complexes to have the ability to change over to that system without having to change over all of their water meters. But Soules said there is a good reason why water and trash bills should be hooked together: If a tenant doesn’t fully pay the water/trash bill, the city has the ability — after proper notice is given — to shut off the tenant’s water. That usually gets the billing matter resolved.
Enclard, however, isn’t buying it. He believes the city doesn’t want to make the change because the current multi-family trash system is financially lucrative for the city.
“I think apartment tenants definitely are getting a raw deal when it comes to trash in this town,” Enclard said.
Enclard said the city’s costs to pick up trash at an apartment complex — where it already has been consolidated into a few Dumpsters — has to be significantly less than it costs the city to go to every driveway in a residential neighborhood and pick up trash cans. Yet both single-family and multi-family residents pay the same $14.94 per month.
“They don’t want to do any of this because they don’t want to lose the revenue,” Enclard said. “And if they allow me to do my business, they will lose revenue. They would. But they shouldn’t be generating revenue like they are right now. They’re taking advantage of citizens.”
City officials dispute that claim. But Mayor Aron Cromwell said he understands some of Enclard’s points, though he said the time for Enclard’s idea is not ideal.
That’s because the city’s Solid Waste Task Force is considering recommendations that would change many aspects of the city’s trash and recycling services. Cromwell said he doesn’t want to make ordinance changes to accommodate Enclard’s business only to change the entire system again in a few months.
“I agree that it is time for us to come up with some ways to change what we’re doing when it comes to trash,” Cromwell said. “But we’re in the middle of that right now.
“I appreciate that he is out there trying to make something work, but we’re trying to make something work not for one or two apartment complexes or even 10 or 15. We’re trying to make something work for the entire city, and we’re getting closer to that.”