Lawrence city commissioners are right to push staff members to come up with a system that rewards local residents who generate little trash.
Like it or not, it appears Lawrence residents soon will be required to place their trash in city-issued carts that can be handled by automated trucks. The system supposedly will cut down on worker injuries and make the city’s trash system more efficient. The plan presented to commissioners last week called for a 65-gallon trash cart to be the standard receptacle issued by the city at no charge. Residents who think they need more trash capacity can rent 90-gallon carts for $1 per month. Carts that hold 35 gallons also would be available, but residents with those carts would pay the same trash fee as those with 65-gallon carts.
After hearing from several residents at last week’s meeting, city commissioners agreed that the system wasn’t fair to people who generate a small amount of trash. If part of the city’s goal is to try to conserve landfill space, it should be encouraging residents to recycle and limit their trash. It appears that the city is at least a couple of years away from instituting its own curbside recycling system, but that doesn’t mean the city shouldn’t be promoting recycling through existing services and drop-off sites.
City staff members expressed concern that giving a cost break for a 35-gallon container could cause more people to opt for the smaller container but then make a habit of putting out additional bags of trash, which would undercut the automated truck system. The city plans to pick up additional bags, at least for now, but have route drivers keep a log of people who habitually put out bags.
Allowing people to put out bags without paying an additional fee is going to be a problem. Unless the city makes people pay for a special trash pickup or buy stickers for additional bags of trash, people are going to take advantage of the system regardless of the size of the trash cart.
The city probably is trying to mitigate negative reaction to the new cart requirement, but not enforcing the new rules isn’t the answer. The better answer is to simply be fair: Charge people who can put all their trash in a 35-gallon cart less than those who need a 65-gallon or 90-gallon cart. If people occasionally have to put out additional bags, make them pay a little extra for that service. If they do it often, they will find it cost-effective to step up to a larger cart and pay a small monthly fee.
No matter what the city does, there is going to be some negative response from people who like their current trash service and don’t want to use or store a large city trash cart. The least the city can do is reward people who make less use of the city landfill.