If you’re not recycling at home, get ready.
Moab City Council members delayed imposing a measure this week to make recycling mandatory for residents. In hopes of soliciting more public input, council member Mike Duncan asked the council to table the new ordinance and revisit it at the Feb. 12 meeting.
“My intent here is to get us to delay a vote on this until two weeks from now,” Duncan said, adding that he would like to see the city publicize the issue ahead of the Feb. 12 meeting to inform the people not present at the council’s open meeting.
The change could impact up to 2,600 residences and would make it mandatory for each household to have a 95-gallon curbside recycling bin collected once every two weeks. For residents who currently only pay for trash collection, the mandatory recycling would increase their monthly waste collection bills from approximately $17 to about $30.
The resolution presented at the city meeting on Jan. 22 would approve a contract with Monument Waste and impose a new fee and rate structure to both residential and commercial customers.
The council discussed whether it makes sense to impose mandatory recycling on residents and not commercial enterprises, with council members Rani Derasary and Kalen Jones raising the question of whether it’s an equitable decision.
“I just can’t rectify in my mind why it’s OK to make it mandatory for residents and not commercial at the same time,” Derasary said.
As Moab City Manager David Everitt told the council that he was going to “run through a set of slides” in a presentation about the changes the ordinance would make, Jones asked whether the measure to create the new contract with Monument Waste and impose the new structure could be made into separate ordinances before the council takes a vote to increase waste hauling fees by about 70 percent for some residents. This would give council some additional time to consider how the costs are passed through to customers, he said, as he asked if there is a way to “soften the blow to residents.”
“I’m wondering if… currently, recycling in this community is heavily subsidized, so I am wondering if we could phase in the cost of recycling by continuing to subsidize it,” Jones said.
Moab City Mayor Emily Niehaus said the recycling is currently subsidized by the county, and encouraged the council to look closely at a gradual path but also have a timeline for moving forward.
Jones made a motion for the ordinance to allow the city manager to sign documents for entering into the contract with Monument Waste and adopting the fee structure. In the final vote, the measure failed 3 to 2, immediately followed by a motion by Duncan to table the motion until the Feb. 12 meeting with direction for the city to advertise the presentation being made at the meeting “so we have an informed public here,” he said. Council member Karen Guzman-Newton seconded Duncan’s motion.
Several people questioned what Duncan wants to accomplish by tabling the decision for a later date.
“Do you just want to give the public time to digest it?” council member Tawny Knuteson-Boyd asked.
Derasary reiterated Duncan’s comments on tabling the decision to inform the public.
“Unless it’s going to change the way you’re going to vote, we have until June to do the outreach,” Everitt said
Duncan said if any members of the public “present a compelling case” during the citizen’s to be heard portion of the Feb. 12 meeting “to say ‘hey, you guys are doing the wrong thing,’” then he would change his vote. But, he doesn’t expect to, he said.
“I want to make sure the public is informed and they have a chance to see exactly what it is that we’re about to do before we do it,” he said.
Commenting in favor of the proposed ordinance prior to the motion being tabled were Grand County Council member Mary McGann, Moab City Sustainability Director Rosemarie Russo and Monument Waste Services President Dan Kirkpatrick.
One citizen came forward to speak against the ordinance. Sara Melnicoff, of Moab Solutions, asked for the council to take time to think over the new proposal and raised a point about the people in the community who are “anti-recycling,” saying that they will still be throwing trash out on the side of the road.
“I’m begging you to consider putting off making a decision tonight,” Melnicoff said. “A few weeks can make a big difference in… a healthy system.”
Melnicoff shook her head throughout the meeting when the discussion arose for moving forward with implementing single-stream recycling as the city’s cleanest and best solution. She wrote a letter to the city and council urging them to consider the ramifications and high-contamination rates single-stream recycling creates, and spoke in favor of retaining source-separated recycling. She also asked the city to do a study and retain more experts.
“We think single-stream will drive the future of Moab,” Kirkpatrick told the council, saying that single-stream makes it easier for the customers and city because the recycling doesn’t have to be sorted.
McGann said, speaking as a citizen and as a member of the solid waste board, that arriving at the latest proposal “has not been a fast process.”
“The rumor in town is that it has been a fast process,” she said. “That rumor, that this has happened fast, I hope will cease.”
Outside of the city chambers after the measure was tabled, Russo said she will be back at the meeting in two weeks and is “a little disappointed” by the council’s decision.
“I think it is going to be difficult to reach our carbon goals if nobody is willing to change some of the regulations that we have now,” Russo said.
Green Solutions, a private recycling business currently offering services to residents, is set to be acquired by Monument Waste. Green Solutions’ owner Brad Woodford also expressed disappointment in the council as he left the meeting.
“I think they should have passed it because it’s what’s going to happen,” Woodford said.
On Jan. 18, Kirkpatrick announced Monument Waste Services will acquire Green Solutions’ customer accounts effective on Feb. 28, and will begin the process of implementing single-stream recycling,
“We are excited to be bringing single-stream curbside recycle services to Moab and Grand County, we see a successful program in our future,” Kirkpatrick said in the announcement.
Motion fails to impose mandatory recycling on all households
“I want to make sure the public is informed and they have a chance to see exactly what it is that we’re about to do before we do it.”