Layton officials debate green-waste issues

Dec 20 2010 - 11:31pm

LAYTON -- As Layton city officials prepare to decide whether the city will implement a curbside green-waste collection and recycling program, one big question surrounds the initial decision.

Would it be an opt-in or opt-out program?

"We'll have a decision (whether or not to implement the program) made before the spring of next year," said Layton Mayor Steve Curtis. "If the decision is made (to do it), it will be made before we start cutting the grass so we can get right into it."

In the program, residents have a separate, specifically marked green 90-gallon container in which to put grass and yard trimmings and other compostable material. Materials that cannot be put in the green-waste cans include rocks, dirt, sod, food waste and paper. The waste would be collected on the same day as normal garbage pickup, but only during the months of March through November. During the other three months, residents would use the special green-waste container for normal garbage.

The green waste will be delivered to the recycling facility at the Davis landfill for processing.

The program cost is highly dependent upon participation rate; the higher the participation, the lower the associated hauling cost. The current program goal is to price the green-waste recycling container service for less than a second garbage can, which is $7.65 per month in Layton.

Should the city decide to implement the program, it also will decide if residents will first have the option to join or if they will automatically be enrolled in the program and will have to withdraw from participating if they choose.

Nathan Rich, CEO and executive director of Wasatch Integrated Waste Management District, which partners with cities for the program, is strongly in favor of an opt-out program.

That is how Fruit Heights started the program in 2009. During the summer there, 20 percent of the garbage is recycled.

"If you're going to take the time and effort to implement the program, let's get participation rates and corresponding recycle rates as high as possible, and the opt-out program seems to provide that," Rich said. "It's just picking up people in the middle that would like the program but just don't take the time to sign up."

Centerville, the only other city currently involved with the program, has it as an opt-in program, and its participation rate is about half of that in Fruit Heights. Syracuse, Woods Cross and West Point will start in the spring, and all three cities have yet to decide whether they will be opt-in or opt-out.

Should a city choose the opt-out, Rich said, it's important to let residents know how they can avoid participating.

"That's the key on the opt-out, particularly when we roll the program out. If you didn't take time to read your newsletter and you didn't take time to respond, this can is going to show up on your doorstep and it's going to have some literature attached to the top of it explaining the program, how it works and the cost," Rich said. "Then, you're going to be forced to make a decision. If the decision is you call the city and say make this can go away, we'll come and pick it up and move it to someone who wants it."

Regardless of whether the cities decide to be opt-in or opt-out, Rich said, the program is getting a lot of interest.

"Within three or four years, I think we'll see this program available in every city in the district," Rich said.

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