By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — When the mandatory curbside recycling program was introduced in July 2013, the goal was to recycle 30 percent of the solid waste stream, but four years later City Manager Scott Myers has concluded "It appears that we have peaked somewhere in the 22 percent to 24 percent range."
The program aimed to reduce the cost of collecting, transporting and disposing of solid waste. The recycling contract provides for collecting recyclable materials at the curbside every other week as well as emptying the four remote dumpsters at a fixed cost irrespective of the tonnage collected. Consequently, each ton removed from the solid waste stream by recycling spares $150 in collection, transportation and disposal costs.
However, the solid waste expenditures, excluding compensation and benefits, has not decreased but increased by more than $150,000, from $1,446,916 in 2013-2014 to $1,598,250 in 2015-2016.
The mandatory recycling ordinance requires residents and businesses to separate designated materials for recycling from trash as well as limits residences to two 32-gallon containers of trash each week and businesses and multi-family buildings to seven containers. There is no limit to the volume of recyclable materials collected at the curbside, but they must be placed in appropriately marked containers.
Earlier this summer, the city undertook an audit of its trash collection routes in an effort to measure compliance with the mandatory recycling program. Afterwards letters were sent to some 700 property owners, about a fifth of all the stops on the five routes, who were found out of compliance. Specific infractions, such as failure to recycle, failure to separate and excessive trash, were noted, and directions for complying with the ordinance were offered.
Myers said that the letters were mailed, so he expected recycling to increase over the prior collection cycle or the same cycle the year before. However, the volume of recyclables collected at the curbside actually declined and was less than both the prior two-week period and the same two-week period a year ago.
"We're at where we're at," Myers said Friday, "We've squeezed out what there is to squeeze."
He said he will report to the City Council when it meets Monday, but other than continuing to educate property owners and enforce the ordinance he has no specific recommendations. He conceded that a pay-as-you-throw program, which requires purchasing marked bags for disposing of trash, is the "only logical alternative." An evenly divided City Council scuttled a pay-as-you-throw program in 2013 as then Mayor Mike Seymour cast the deciding vote against it.
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