Archive for Monday, June 11, 2012

State law would make Lawrence wait two years to start curbside recycling program

June 11, 2012


A little-known state law will prevent Lawrence from starting a citywide curbside recycling program for at least two years.

Lawrence city commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday will be asked to start the process of gathering information on how much a citywide curbside program would cost. But staff members also are notifying commissioners a state law approved in 2011 will prohibit the city from starting a curbside recycling program before June 2014.

“It is very disappointing, and the wisdom of it seems pretty questionable to me,” said City Commissioner Aron Cromwell, who also spent more than a year leading the city’s Solid Waste Task Force.

The state law requires two public hearing periods that total 120 days before the city can adopt a formal plan to start a curbside recycling program. Once a plan is adopted, however, the state law prohibits the city from starting the service for another 18 months.

Cromwell said the 18-month waiting period is particularly problematic. He said the city likely will be seeking bids from private contractors to run the service. Contractors will be forced to give bids that predict what their costs will be 18 months in the future.

“I think the end result will be that we’ll have a bid that costs the people of Lawrence more than it should,” Cromwell said.

Sandra Jacquot, general counsel for the League of Kansas Municipalities, said the legislation emerged in 2011 as a compromise. Jacquot said several trash and recycling hauling companies were strongly lobbying for a law that would have required cities to essentially buy out private hauling companies anytime a city switched from an open market system to one controlled by the city. The 18-month waiting period is designed to give private companies time to transition, but Jacquot said the league unsuccessfully argued the waiting period was excessive.

The law applies to Lawrence because the city currently is served by about six privately-owned recycling companies. The city is contemplating creating a new system that would be controlled by the city but may be operated by a single private contractor.

Commissioners at their Tuesday meeting will start the process of determining whether they really want to create a curbside program. How much the program will add to the monthly water, sewer and trash bills of customers is expected to be a major factor.

“If it costs too much, none of us will be comfortable moving forward,” Cromwell said. “But looking at other communities, I’m pretty confident we’re going to see that it is feasible.”

Cromwell said he expects the service to cost somewhere between $3 and $6 per month for a household, but the city can’t be sure of the cost until it asks for proposals from private companies.

Commissioners will be asked to give staff members authority to put together a request for proposals that can be distributed later this year. Staff members have made several suggestions of what should be included in those proposals, largely following previous recommendations of the city’s Solid Waste Task Force.

Here’s a look at proposed details of a new service:

• The service would operate on the mandatory pay but voluntary participation model. Every residence in the city would have an as-yet-undetermined amount added to its monthly water, sewer and trash bill. But residences wouldn’t be required to put their recyclables in a recycling container. Residents still could throw such material away, but the city is betting many folks won’t if they are having to pay for the service anyway.

• Businesses would not be part of the program, as currently proposed. A staff memo notes that many businesses already have private contracts for recycling, and some count on revenue from selling recycled materials.

• Apartment complexes would be included in the program. As proposed, all apartment complexes would have some type of recycling bin that will be emptied by the city or its contractor.

• City staff members want to explore an option where a private company would run both the collection and processing of recycled materials. Staff members also want to explore an alternative where the city would run the collection of the materials but a private company would handle the processing. Under either scenario, the city would be responsible for billing and other administrative matters.

• The city is leaning toward a single-stream recycling option. Such a system would allow residents to throw all their recyclable materials into a single container. Materials expected to be accepted include: newsprint, mixed paper, office paper, corrugated containers, tin and steel cans; aluminum cans and plastics coded No. 1 through No. 7. But the city is making no promises on whether glass bottles and jars would be collected.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall.


cheeseburger 1 year, 10 months ago

I think it's a bit ironic and humorous that a town known for her onerous regulations finds itself mired in seemingly foolish state regulations. It is particularly humorous that 'cram it down your throat' Cramwell is miffed because his grand scheme has been derailed, at least temporarily.


toe 1 year, 10 months ago

I love Lawrence. A little dictatorship in a sea of freedom.


avarom 1 year, 10 months ago

Hear is the true reality of recycling program... the Scavenger Co. forces you to use their that is bifurcated for Glass & Plastics, another for Paper, which you have to separate. Then they give you another for your Yard and Grass clippings which you have to put into that can. They Scavenger Co. lays off most the of Garbage Men/Women for they can pick up the Cans now pick up the New Cans with a mechanical device that lifts the can into the trucks bifurcated trash bins, so they can re-sell it for Profit. We have one Garage man for the neighborhood...Same deal with the Grass and Yard clippings...they Re-sell for Profit to Companies that are recycling...great...then they raise your bill after 3-6 months for the multiple runs..gas...or whatever they make up. You have no choice...your stuck with their cans now, their rules and their bill raises. I am all for recycling...but We Are the Ones Doing it For Other People Profit!! Don't forget to ask for a Senior Discount for the Older Folks before they implement and a moratorium on bills raises or you will be stuck like us in California. Recycling for the Scavenger Companies Profit...they joke was on US and we ain't laughing.


jayneway 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm quite happy with my curbside service (Sunflower Curbside Recycling).


sherbert 1 year, 10 months ago

If they've already spent a whole year on the task force, seems like someone would have found out about this law before now.


tbaker 1 year, 10 months ago

Government forcing people to recycle doesn’t make it a good idea. If it was worth doing in the first place, there would be a market for such waste and collection would be free. One has to ask - just because something is recyclable, is actually recycling it a good idea environmentally? What’s the net carbon footprint of creating X quantity of something from raw material, versus the net carbon footprint caused by creating X quantity of something from recycled materials?

Recycling paper, glass, and most metal are pretty simple and actually produce a net environmental benefit, but only if the supply stream of the material is large enough to make the recycling collection effort required worth-while economically. If it is not, local government has to force citizens to pay as is the case here. This begs the question: is the resulting benefit to the environment / city of Lawrence worth what government is forcing people to pay? Who makes that judgment? Will the books be open for public inspection? Will citizens get to see what the city sells the material for? What the labor and other bureaucratic costs are? Just how much of a deficit there really is? Could the new ordinance have a sun-set provision so we can re-visit this issue after we’ve tried it for a while?

With exception of some very specific kinds of plastic (that most people have no idea how to identify), most consumer plastic is either not recyclable, or is economically not recyclable, and in most cases a net bad thing for the environment to even try. If we don’t want the stuff in our land fill, I would recommend we go back to glass containers like pop and milk and peanut butter used to come in. Of course we’d burn more fuel delivering these things to market because of the increased weight of the products in glass containers.


consumer1 1 year, 10 months ago

Mr. Cromwell, the horse goes in front of the wagon. not visa versa.


Steve Bunch 1 year, 10 months ago

Why all the ad hominem attacks, JackMcKee?


irvan moore 1 year, 10 months ago

why waste city staff time and money on the process now


KansasLiberal 1 year, 10 months ago

"But the city is making no promises on whether glass bottles and jars would be collected."

That's weird. Glass is the easiest material to recycle, so the only reason that I can think of to not include it is the risk broken glass can cause the people collecting the bins.


JackMcKee 1 year, 10 months ago

What's disappointing is that Lawrence has a dimwit like Cromwell calling shots.


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