In 1992 Provo capped its landfill in East Bay and entered a special service district with Springville, Mapleton, Spanish Fork, and Salem. Working with our Utah County neighbors, we built a landfill and transfer station. Since then the district has grown to eight member cities. For those curious, solid waste is taken to the transfer station in Springville, and then trucked to the Bayview landfill on the other side of Utah Lake. The landfill is on land leased from the State of Utah.
The landfill has a capacity for ten million tons of municipal solid waste. The hope was that this would be enough to cover the district’s waste for the next 75 years.
In 2003, the City contracted out a curbside recycling program. As of a couple years ago, thanks to the yard waste (green cans) and the recycling program, the City was saving over two hundred thousand dollars per year by offsetting the cost of tipping fees by diverting the yard waste and recyclables from the landfill.
Due to a number of variables beyond the Council’s control, including the rapid population growth experienced in Utah County over the past decade, we were faced with a challenge – the tipping fee which the city pays for use of the landfill was increasing dramatically to the point at which we were actually having to use fund reserves to subsidize our trash pickup program. Unfortunately, it looks like Tipping fees will very likely continue to increase over the near future.
This led to the administration approaching the council with the decision to look at the rates charged for residential trash pickup and end the trash subsidy.
During this time there was some discussion on ways to avoid dealing with a quickly filling landfill and the dramatic cost increase the city will face due to an increased population producing more trash than had been previously expected.
Important discussion points included:
Whether we liked it or not, the city was going to have to increase rates or face paying an even larger subsidy to continue providing trash pickup. The method in which we increased rates was heavily discussed with the outcome being a proposal to raise the price of black cans to $14.50, and to reduce the cost of green and blue cans to $4.75 each. Those with at least one recycling can would receive a $2 discount, so a customer with both a blue can and green can would pay $21. The previous cost was $11 for a black can and $5 for a green can or a blue can. Under this rate schedule some customers would see an increase of as much as $3.50, while others as little as $1.25.
I don’t like the idea of a mandatory program. My family has participated in the recycling program for the past few years and found it convenient and a good fit for our needs. I believe that residents are best able to decide whether or not recycling fits their needs and that they should be permitted the option to opt-out of participating. For this reason I stated that I could not support any recycling change unless it had an opt-out option.
Our previous recycling system was ‘opt-in’ and made it a bit difficult at times for those wishing to participate to get started. Neighboring city Eagle Mountain recently found that by providing the much easier opt-out option, they were able to greatly increase participation in their program to an impressive 75 percent.
The council voted 4-2 in favor of going with an opt-out recycling plan. During the discussion on the matter I indicated that I would like to see the rates accurately reflect our true cost of delivering service and that we continue to offer a discount to our residential customers with multiple cans. That discussion was continued and is something which the council is still working on. Depending on the number of customers that choose to recycle, our costs should be lower than the forecasted rates and I intend to work towards reducing our rates accordingly. It is my hope that we will be able to come to a rate schedule which not only makes good fiscal sense for the city in the long term, but that also keeps the cost of service competitive and low.
Those wishing to opt-out can easily do so on the city website here. I hope most of you will join me in choosing to recycle. In addition to saving landfill space, there is also a fiscal benefit to the city as well as the long term savings realized by a community choosing to recyle.
Please post a comment, or contact me if you have any ideas or suggestions on how the city can further decrease its cost in delivering trash pickup. Take a look at the mayor’s blog for additional information.