Council Sifts Through Citywide Trash Collection Idea

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Thursday April 19, 2012

Earlier this month, Chairman of the Chittenden Solid Waste District Board Paul Stabler announced that they would create a study analyzing the economic and environmental effects of organized trash collection. Stabler presented the findings at the April 11 City Council meeting.

In 2009, the district adopted a five-year strategic plan that aimed to decrease waste and increase diversion of waste into beneficial use, Stabler explained. One part of the plan was to study the current trash collection system in which there are 14 haulers in the county that collect trash, some of which overlap the same area; this is seen as inefficient. Organized collection can resolve this issue.

There have been some improvements such as the opening of a new compost facility.

CSWD worked with a consultant to restudy the collection system.  They analyzed three options: a collection of residential waste and recyclables on a weekly basis; a collection of commercial waste and recyclables on a weekly basis; and a collection of residential waste and recyclables on a bi-weekly basis.

Stabler proceeded to list a few assumptions that went along with the execution of the study, the first being that all resident waste and recycling would include condominiums and multi-homes; these would align more along the lines of a commercial property since they share a single dumpster. Another assumption was that the roll off containers would not be very beneficial: “Because roll-off containers are individually collected by a single truck,” he explained, “it is unlikely that there would be significant economic or environmental savings.” Thus, they were eliminated from the analysis.

Another assumption was that 15 percent of households are “self-haulers” meaning residents will use drop-off centers exclusively. A fourth assumption was that each defined zone would have a single hauler on a regular collection schedule. It is also assumed that collection route sizes would increase and that recycling quantities would increase due to frequency, education programs with a single hauler, or large volume carts.

The study yielded the following results:

Residential waste resulted in 60 percent generation of trash and recycling (64,900 tons combined) and 70 percent of the cost, while commercial waste and recycling was a 40 percent generation (43,400 tons combined) and 30 percent of the cost.

The financial portion of the study also showed that collecting residential waste and recyclables cost more than commercial waste. Without organized collection, residential waste and recycling costs the city $18,524,700, while commercial collection costs the city $7,952,100 for a combined cost of $26,476,800. That’s $285 per ton for residential waste and recycling and $183 per ton for commercial waste and recycling.

Implementing organized waste and recycling collection would change those figures. According to the study, the cost of residential waste and recycling collection would be $22,120,180; the cost of commercial waste and recycling collection would be $20,593,680, and the cost of residential waste and recycling collection on a bi-weekly basis would be $20,552,080. In those sums, there is a cost of administration from the district to administer the contracts.

Currently, the baseline cost per household is about $305, or $25 a month. After consolidation, both residential and commercial collection per household costs would be $229 annually, or $19 a month. The cost of residential bi-weekly collection would be $203 annually, or $17 a month.

“There will be about $4,924,800 savings if we consolidate this,” Stabler said. There would be a 16 percent reduction for residential, 22 percent for commercial, and 23 percent for residential bi-weekly.
The city’s baseline percentage of how many residents recycle is at 21.9 percent. After consolidation of routes, Stabler predicts a 5.4 percent jump up to 27.3 percent.

85 percent of the country with curbside collection has chosen this path.

The environmental benefits of this consolidation would be reduced air emissions and GHG emissions. An area with only one hauler would have a greater chance of recycling more, according to Stabler’s presentation.

After presenting these figures, Stabler outlined the next phase: develop and execute a plan. Stabler encouraged active participation on behalf of the Council and the community as a whole because it has the potential to become controversial.

“Is it worth it?” was one of the probable questions that could arise, Stabler said. Establishing how many collection zones there would be, collection frequency, and whether or not they could implement a compost regulation were other possible topics that could breed from this discussion.

Council members all agreed to allow CSWD to start with a design plan and go from there.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent