Are you in, or are you out?
The Moab City Council this week adopted a new household recycling service for its residential customers, but instead of mandating the service, it’s giving them the option to opt out of the program. Council member Rani Derasary, who was in Washington, D.C., to lobby in support of more federal funding for the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project, did not participate in the Feb. 12 vote.
The council’s action was part of a broader resolution to approve a franchise agreement with contracted waste hauler Monument Waste for solid waste and recycling collection and disposal services.
Under the low end of the new rates — which are set to take effect on June 1 — residents can opt to pay $12 per month for the pickup of a 65-gallon garbage container every other week. At the other end of the rate structure, $30 per month will cover the weekly collection of a 95-gallon trash can, as well as new 95-gallon curbside recycling service every other week.
That compares to a current monthly rate of $17, so residential customers who opt for the cheaper service will actually save money, Moab Mayor Emily Niehaus said.
“If you want the smaller cart, biweekly pickup and opt-out of recycling, you’re about to pay less,” Niehaus said.
However, if residential customers would like to keep the same trash carts they currently use and stick with weekly pickup services, Niehaus said they’ll pay $18 per month. Biweekly recycling services will cost an additional $12 per month — on par with what some residents had been paying voluntarily for Green Solutions’ optional curbside services.
“You will net neutral with this motion,” Niehaus said.
Council members had previously considered a proposal that would have mandated household recycling within the city limits. But a majority of council members ultimately rejected a related motion at their Jan. 22 meeting and later voted to table the matter, giving local residents more time to weigh in on the issue.
Moab City Council member Kalen Jones, who made the motion to approve the council’s Feb. 12 action, said he believes that good dialogue and progress on the contract followed the Jan. 22 meeting. In particular, he said, subsequent improvements to trash rates address concerns that council members heard about costs.
“We now have … the opportunity for people to pay less than they have in recent memory for their trash service, so that is a significant improvement,” he said.
In addition to opting out of the new recycling service, Jones said that residents will now have the option twice a year to reduce the number of trash containers they may use.
“So that’s more flexibility than what was previously discussed,” he said.
Jones said his motion also directs city staffers to be “really clear” that residential customers have the option to sign up for smaller trash containers or less frequent pickups in order to save money. Likewise, he said, staffers will notify residents about the recycling service, and inform them that they’re not required to use it.
Jones, who also serves on the Solid Waste Special Service District #1 board, noted that the existing recycling center on Sand Flats Road is “not going away.” The council’s vote, he said, simply increases the diversity of recycling options that are available to city residents.
RESIDENTS WEIGH IN ON RECYCLING
The wording of the council’s Feb. 12 agenda packet suggested that city officials had already moved beyond the idea of a mandatory recycling service. But local residents still turned out in full force to voice their concerns about the since-rejected proposal.
Some, like 90-year-old Kenneth Robbins, said the previously proposed rate increase would have affected the limited budgets and fixed incomes of older residents.
“They cannot take an increase in that,” he said.
Others who said they have been recycling voluntarily for years told council members that they cannot afford any rate increases.
“I think charging people like me who are living on a limited retirement $13 a month for something that is absolutely unnecessary for my purposes, is wrong,” Moab resident Jay Prentiss said. “It’s not fair, and I’m sure I’m not the only retiree living on a pension or a retirement (income) in this town.”
Resident Jessica Fawn said she “feels passionately” about source-sorted, voluntary recycling, but she emphasized that she could not pay for the rejected proposal for mandatory service.
She said she believes that the Moab Area Travel Council already spends enough money to promote tourism in Moab, and she suggested that a portion of those funds could be used to promote recycling.
“Let us use some of that travel council money and pay people to recycle; give them coupons; educate the poor about recycling,” Fawn said. “Somehow, we’re nickel and dimming ourselves into oblivion … Please remember the non-rich.”
Moab Solutions founder and executive director Sara Melnicoff said she thinks it’s important for city officials to pause and have experts conduct an official study of the community’s entire waste stream. Having said that, she voiced her support for an opt-in recycling service.
“If it is opt-in, I’m going to start the most innovative and inclusive ‘come on up to the recycle center’ project that you’ve ever seen,” Melnicoff said.
SINGLE-STREAM RECYCLING COMES UNDER CRITICISM
According to a draft version of the city’s agreement with Monument Waste, the contractor’s list of recyclable materials includes glass bottles and jars; aluminum and tin cans; newspapers; junk mail; office paper; magazines; #1 and #2 plastic bottles and tubs; and cardboard, among other things.
Instead of separating the materials by type in bins, residents will place them in one “single-stream” container. All materials should be properly cleaned, and they should not be placed in plastic bags, which make it harder for recyclers to sort through materials.
Recycling Coalition of Utah President Beau Peck urged the city to stick with statewide standards dealing with items that should — or should not — be placed in recycling containers.
“We’d really recommend that you adhere to that statewide standard,” he said. “That’s really going to help you guys as far as reaching out to all of your visitors that come to town … If the message is mixed, that becomes quite confusing for those visitors.”
Peck said that many recyclers don’t like to see glass mixed in with other curbside recyclables, adding that increasing numbers of them are moving away from the practice of single-stream recycling.
“It is detrimental to the value of the paper in the mix,” he said. “We can’t get all of the glass out — that really hurts the industry.”
Council member Karen Guzman-Newton also voiced concerns about a single-stream recycling system.
“We all know it’s dirty,” she said.
To keep the stream of recycled materials clean, she said, an educational component will be critical not just for city residents, but for more than 2 million visitors who come to Moab each year.
“As soon as you dump a can of La Croix or Pepsi into our recycling bin that has any form of liquid in it, it ruins all the paper that’s in that bin, and … the education piece is just so important if we’re going to try to have the cleanest (stream of recyclables),” she said.
COMMERCIAL RATES TO INCREASE; NO MANDATE FOR COMMERCIAL RECYCLING
Beyond the issue of residential recycling, Guzman-Newton noted that under the Monument Waste contract, waste-hauling rates for commercial customers are about to increase significantly — by 14 to 65 percent, according to her estimates.
“And that hasn’t been discussed at all,” she said.
According to Guzman-Newton, Monument Waste is not ready to mandate recycling for the city’s commercial business customers, in part because it is not physically prepared to handle that material.
Moab City Manager David Everitt said he appreciates Monument Waste’s approach to contract discussions.
“They’ve said, ‘Look, we can be flexible here and we can adjust,’ and we can if there’s an opportunity to accelerate things like recycling participation by businesses … they’ll work with us to make that work,” he said.
But for some commercial customers, he said, recycling may not be practical due to space-related constraints and other issues.
“In part, the approach with regard to not proposing a requirement for commercial (business customers) had to do with some logistical and practical constraints,” he said.
For a complete list of items that can and cannot be recycled, go to: www.monumentwaste.com. If you have additional questions, you can also contact Monument Waste Services President Dan Kirkpatrick at 435-259-6314, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Council action gives residents option to opt out of program
“You will net neutral with this motion.”