Down in the Dumps

At the October 21st City Council meeting there was a unanimous vote to let the current contract with Red Creek expire without renewal or seeking bids from other companies.  Any city resident currently using the blue bag system and all those using orange recycling bins will have to find their own means for waste and recycling pickup.  While the first reaction to this news might be similar to Oscar the Grouch, when pulling apart the layers of the situation the outlook isn’t so grim.  

Looking into Options

City Manager Mike Burns presented council with four options on how to proceed with future waste and recycle pick up in the city.  The options were (1) continue with Red Creek under a new contract where the cost of recycling would be passed on to residents, (2) bid for a single provider for trash and recycling, (3) the city opts out of trash and recycling involvement other than designating a day for pickup, or (4) the city looks for bids from haulers and awards a contract to the lowest qualified bidder and residents would establish their plan with any complaints going to the provider.  See the meeting agenda for Oct. 3, page 18, for a list a pros and cons presented with each option.  

City Council, a handful of residents, and representatives from Red Creek and Republic provided comments on the notion of free enterprise, truck traffic on the roads, an increase in cost for haulers to dispose of recycling, and city resources needed for being involved in waste and recycling during the October 3rd City Council meeting.  Councilmember Alan Teelander states, “It takes City resources to run a program that can run itself.”  

At the next meeting there was little discussion and only a vote for option 3 where the city no longer has involvement in waste and recycling removal other than designating a day for pickup within the city and enforcement of ordinances pertaining to trash effective December 1, 2016.  

Residents’ Concerns

One issue facing residents is the increased cost to recycle.  “Recycling now has a cost attached to it.  Our Contract with Red Creek some six years ago included Red Creek doing recycling for no additional cost, using the pre-existing orange tubs furnished by the City.” says Councilmember Jim Hodges.  Even if Lowell were to sign another contract with Red Creek an increase for recycling would be added.  The majority of city residents who recycle use the orange bins provided by the city.  

Another topic for debate concerns those residents who do not produce much trash.  Some families have a higher recycling to trash ratio each month.  Seniors often do not have much waste to dispose of regularly.  The bag system has been convenient for many during the city’s six year contract with Red Creek.  

What Now?

Eric Schelhaas of Red Creek is currently working with local businesses to continue offering bags.  Residents will be able to purchase bags at designated shops.  It is unclear if the price of bags will rise but in the event of an increase it should not be significant.  The current cost is $17.50 for 10 trash bags and $20 for 10 yard waste bags.  The bag method will be offered as long as there is a demand for them.  

An additional cost will come to those who recycle using the orange bins.  Red Creek will offer residents a bin at the cost of $3.00/month or a 96 gallon rolling cart for $4.50/month for recycling purposes.  Residents who do not use the current bag system but wish to continue recycling will need to secure other means for recycling pickup starting December 1.  Any recycling left in orange bins will not be picked up by Red Creek or any other hauler.  

If you have one of the orange recycling bins provided by the city it can be returned in exchange for the deposit placed when it was checked out.  Residents have until May 1, 2017 to turn in bins for the deposit.  After this date any deposit will be forfeit and you may keep the bin.  Residents also have the option of keeping the orange bin and forgo the deposit at any time.  

Shop Around

Now is a good time to evaluate waste and recycling needs even if you are currently using a bin service.  A company must be licensed hauler with the city in order to do business with residents.  Currently Red Creek, Green Valley Services, Waste Management, and Republic are licensed.  Not all carriers offer recycling.  And some do not offer yard waste removal.  

Green Valley Services does offer a tag option for $3.50/tag.  The customer provides the bag, up to 32 gallons and 40 pounds, and calls for pick up prior to Lowell’s Thursday trash day.  They charge $9.50/month for recycling or $6/month when bundled with a trash bin rather than a bag.  Waste Management and Republic did not respond to inquiries on pricing and bundles but their websites do offer some information.    

Starting December 1, 2016 Lowell will not be involved in waste and recycling removal.  Contacting haulers for options and pricing may not top the list of fun things to do on a fall day, but in the end it won’t be a waste of time.  

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