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Mark Richardson is a multimedia journalist, editor and writer who has worked in digital, print and broadcast media for three decades. He is a nationally recognized editor and reporter who has covered government, politics and the environment. A journalism graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, he was recently awarded a Foundation for Investigative Journalism grant and has three Associated Press Managing Editors awards for excellence in reporting.
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Changes proposed to new fees for trash collection
As the city’s Solid Waste Service Department switches over to a Single Stream recycling program this fall, members of the Solid Waste Advisory Commission are urging the city to put more of a financial incentive in its Pay As You Throw garbage collection program to increase recycling. SWAC members passed a resolution last week encouraging the city to reconsider some of the numbers in its 2009 budget proposal.
City officials are seeking an increase in garbage collection rates – the first in a decade – but are not significantly widening the “rate gap” in order to encourage the use of smaller trash bins. To encourage city staff, the SWAC approved a resolution calling on SWS Director Willie Rhodes and other city officials to reconsider the rates for garbage collection proposed in his department’s 2009 budget. At least one Council member, Mike Martinez, is behind their efforts.
“We think the (SWS) department didn’t really look at the rate gap when they put the budget together,” said SWAC Member Rick Cofer, who sponsored the resolution. “We think they simply looked at the Pay As You Throw rates and adjusted them upward to cover their increased expenses.”
Cofer said that runs counter to the City Council’s stated goal of Zero Waste, which aims to cut the amount of waste sent to the city’s landfill by 20 percent in 2012, and down to zero by 2040.
Single Stream recycling is a major step in that direction, according to SWS officials. The program – which has been running on a pilot basis in four areas of the city for two years — will change from using the current small, open, blue bins collected once a week to a single, 90-gallon, closed bin collected every other week. With the advent of the larger bins, the city will accept more types of materials for recycling and will cut its costs by automating most of its collection, similar to the current system used to collect refuse.
Once the recycling is collected, it will be taken to a new Materials Recycling Facility, or MRF (pronounced Murph), where it will be sorted out into component materials and sold to companies who re-use the recycled materials. Initially,
Council Member Martinez said with Single Stream Recycling coming on board, likely in October, SWS needs to both cover its costs and use incentives to push its customers towards smaller trash bins.
“I don’t approve of the way it’s been proposed,” he said of the rate hike. “We need to raise our rates,” said
In the proposed budget, the rate for a 30-gallon bin is scheduled to increase from $11.75 to $16.15 a month, a 60-gallon trash bin from $14.50 to $20.65 a month, and a 90-gallon trash bin from $17.25 to $24.15 a month. The SWAC proposal would keep the rates for a 30-gallon bin at about $12, with the 60-gallon bin increasing to around $20 to $25 and the 90-gallon bin to between $30 and $35.
He told In Fact Daily he thinks it would be smart to coordinate the new recycling program with Pay As You Throw Incentives. “I think that coupled with an incentivized size solid-waste can, it could be a darn good thing,” he said. “The timing couldn’t be better to educate folks about how many things you’re throwing away that could be recycled.”
A public hearing on the Solid Waste Services proposed 2009 budget is scheduled for 6pm on Aug. 28 before the City Council.
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