City needs 30 percent of residents to sign up for program

Mar 24 2011 - 10:03pm

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SYRACUSE -- A city plan to implement curbside green waste recycling is already in trouble, and the program hasn't even formally kicked off.

Resident participation in the program, scheduled to begin in April, is way below the number needed to make the program economically viable.

Currently, 508 households -- or about 8 percent -- are signed up to participate in the program, but waste hauler Steve Robinson, of Robinson Waste Services Inc., said 30 percent is what's needed to make it feasible at $6.50 a trash can per household.

City leaders are not giving up on an attempt to get people to opt into the initiative, but the results are not encouraging, either.

In a recent work session, Mayor Jamie Nagle wondered if the city shouldn't send out a self-addressed enrollment card to each household to help move the program forward.

The city's staff has also used Eagle Scout projects in an attempt to reach out to residents and get them involved in the program.

Green waste consists of lawn cuttings, clippings from bushes or shrubs, leaves, garden waste and produce.

City officials have maintained the cost of the green waste container is 70 cents less than the cost associated with a second container for normal trash.

They have suggested the program costs could go down if participation levels are higher than anticipated.

Councilman Alan Clark wondered aloud if the city shouldn't consider changing from an opt-in program, where people sign up for the program, to an opt-out program, where people are signed up unless they take formal steps to get out of the program.

He said the opt-out approach has worked to get a green recycling program moving in other Davis County communities.

"It's just not succeeding. I'm concerned. Five hundred and eight homes doesn't justify his costs. We have to figure out a way to increase that number," Clark said.

The idea of a potential opt-out approach caused immediate sparks from several council members.

"If it comes down to force, I don't believe we have the ability to force all Syracuse residents to sign into it. The American way is to allow people to make the decision for themselves," said Councilman Matthew Kimmel.

Councilman Larry Shingleton also said he will not support an opt-out approach to the program.

Clark argued the program can help extend the life of the Wasatch Integrated Waste Landfill in Layton. If something isn't done to slow the stream of garbage to the landfill, he said, it may not be too long before the city is forced to ship local garbage to Tooele for disposal.

Nagle said she constantly hears calls for curbside recycling and believes the green recycling initiative is a step in that direction.

She said taking care of the environment is a moral issue.

Robinson left room for city officials to delay implementation of the program, but Nagle said the city would move ahead with the initiative and try to increase participation, then possibly revisit it later.

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