Lawrence, get ready to recycle and get ready to talk about it.
The city’s Solid Waste Task Force at its Thursday evening meeting made a last-minute decision to recommend a new over-arching goal for its trash service: increase the city’s recycling rate to 50 percent by the year 2020.
“We have talked about the importance of increasing recycling for quite a while now,” said Mayor Aron Cromwell, who chairs the task force. “But we need to have something specific in mind that we’re trying to achieve. And I think this is very achievable.”
Now, city leaders want to hear what residents think about that goal and other proposed changes to the city’s trash and recycling system. Task force members agreed to host a public forum Jan. 19 to receive comments about the task force’s draft plan that will be delivered to city commissioners.
The time and location for the meeting haven’t yet been set. Task force members plan to release the draft plan on the city’s website in about a week once staff members finish making revisions to the document.
But at Thursday’s meeting, task force members reviewed several of the major elements of the plan. They included:
• Increasing the communitywide recycling rate to 50 percent by 2020. Currently, the city’s recycling rate is 34 percent, although the city’s auditor has questioned how that rate is figured.
For much of the 10 months that the task force has been meeting, city staff members have recommended against creating specific numerical goals and noted that a recycling rate could be particularly problematic because it can be rather imprecise.
But as task force members were concluding Thursday’s meeting, a majority said they believed a specific goal should be included in order for the public to better grasp what the city is trying to accomplish by changing its trash system.
“I don’t understand why we’re being so squishy on this,” said Sam Porritt, a task force member. “We’re recommending curbside recycling. What do we hope to get out of that? What is the fear of putting a goal out there?”
• Mandatory usage of carts for both trash and recycling continue to be a major part of the recommendations. The city would provide two carts to every single-family household. One would be for recycling and one would be for trash. The carts would be compatible with hydraulic lifts on the city’s trash trucks, reducing workers’ compensation costs. The report also leaves open the possibility that the city could switch to fully-automated trucks that would reduce the number of crew members on a trash truck from three to one.
The report, however, suggests that residents be given some leeway to occasionally set out trash bags on those weeks when they have more trash than can fit into the mandated carts. The report states that city staff members will have to decide how large the carts should be — likely either 65 gallons or 90 gallons.
• The report recommends the city receive proposals from private companies to run a new citywide curbside recycling program. The report recommends that a new curbside recycling program be created but recognizes it must be fiscally feasible. The report recommends any curbside service be offered on a weekly basis.
• Residents would be required to pay for the curbside recycling service, regardless of whether they choose to use the service. The curbside service simply would be included as part of the city’s standard monthly trash rate. The report doesn’t predict how much curbside recycling may add to a resident’s monthly trash bill. Cromwell previously has said he’s confident total monthly trash bills will be less than $20 per month under any new service.
City Manager David Corliss said Thursday he believes it is possible that people who currently pay a city trash bill plus pay for a private recycling service will pay less under a new system than what they pay today.
• Residents of apartment complexes largely will have to wait and see what changes may be in store for their trash service. The task force essentially said it ran out of time before it was able to discuss possible changes to the city’s multi-family and commercial trash services. But the report indicates that changes to those services are possible in the future.
Task force members are expected to finalize their report after hearing public comments Jan. 19. The report then will be forwarded to the Lawrence City Commission, which will have the final say on any changes that will be made to the trash service.
Cromwell said he expects having much of the trash discussion completed by April.