Published Date Written by Michael KitchLACONIA — With time fast running short, the City Council will consider four options for restructuring the curbside collection of trash and recyclables in an attempt to reduce the cost of collecting, transporting and disposing of solid waste in the 2013-1014 city budget when it meets on Monday, March 11.
Since the city pays a fixed price for recycling — $10,427 a month — regardless of tonnage, every ton taken out of the waste stream and recycled reduces the cost of collecting, transporting and disposing of solid waste, — $150.73 a ton. Currently the cost of collecting, transporting and disposing of trash, less revenue from fees levied at the transfer station, amounts to approximately $800,000 a year, funded by property taxes.
In a memorandum prepared for the mayor, City Council and city manager, Ann Saltmarsh, who manages the solid waste program at the Department of Public Works, outlined the four scenarios, projecting the projected increase in recycling and estimated decrease in costs of each.
One choice would maintain the status quo by continuing to collect trash every week and recyclables every other week. In an effort to increase the volume of recyclables, City Manager Scott Myers initiated a challenge with the goal of increasing recycling tonnage from about 13-percent of the solid waste stream to 30-percent, but in 18 months the share of recyclables has only crept to 14-percent. Costs have fallen by $161,000, but less the cost of collecting recyclables, the net reduction in property taxes is $31,000.
The second option is projected to increase recycling to 20-percent of the solid waste stream by limiting the amount of trash collected at the curb. Trash would still be collected weekly, but single-family family homes would be limited to one 64-gallon container and multi-family buildings and commercial properties to seven 64-gallon containers a week. Those needing additional containers would be required to purchase a sticker to affix to them whenever they were used.
Last year, the council adopted an ordinance reducing the number of 30- gallon containers emptied at multi-family and commercial buildings from 10 to seven, amounting to 210 gallons of trash. If these buildings were allowed seven 64-gallon containers, holding 448 gallons of trash, the amount of trash would not be limited but more than doubled, providing not an incentive but a disincentive to recycle.
This option is projected save $208,000 by removing recyclables from the solid waste stream while sparing about $78,000 in property taxes as well as producing between $10,000 and $15,000 in revenue from the sale of stickers.
Under the third option, recycling would become "mandatory" by refusing to collect trash at the curb unless it is accompanied by a recycling container. No particular amount of recyclables would be required to quality for trash collection. But, this process would be supplemented by limiting the number of 64-gallon trash containers to the numbers specified in the second option.
"Mandatory" recycling is projected to increase the amount of recyclables to 25-percent of the waste stream, reducing the cost of handling trash by $247,000 and funding from property taxes by $117,000.
A "pay-as-you-throw" (PAYT) program, the remaining alternative, is the only option of the four projected to reach and perhaps exceed the original goal of increasing the volume of recyclables to 30-percent of the solid waste stream. PAYT encourages recycling by requiring residents to place the trash and garbage they do not recycle in a special-marked plastic bag purchased at local retail outlets. The trash, together with recyclable materials, is collected at the curbside once a week. Trash not contained in a marked bag is left at the curb.
PAYT is projected to save $286,000 by diverting recyclables from the solid waste stream and spare $156,000 in funding from property taxes.
With recyclables representing 30-percent of the solid waste stream, 3,780 tons of trash would remain to be collected at the curb at a cost of $567,000. The tonnage would require the sale of some 378,000 marked bags. Priced at $1.75 apiece, the sale of bags would generate $661,500 in revenue, enough to defray the cost of purchasing the bags and collecting, transporting and disposing of all the remaining trash.
PAYT shifts the cost of handling solid waste from property taxpayers to households, businesses and other organizations through the purchase of marked bags.
The reduction of $567,000 in the solid waste budget would present the City Council with the choice of applying those funds to other items in the budget, such as roadworks or other capital projects, or simply reducing expenditures and lowering property taxes.
Providing weekly collection of recyclables could be incorporated in all three of the proposed options to change curbside collection. The additional cost of $90,000 has not been factored into the projections. Very likely weekly collection would increase the volume of recycling.
The estimated cumulative reduction in property taxes the city could realize over 10 years, assuming an annual increase in the cost of trash collection and disposal of two-percent a year, are $854,077 for limiting trash collection, $1,218,117 for "mandatory" recycling and $1,708,155 for PAYT.
Along with reducing property taxes by $1.7-million through increased recycling, PAYT would also generate sufficient revenue to displace property taxes in the solid waste budget.