Thursday, October 15, 2015

Curbside Recycling Partnership Starting in Helena January 2016!

This Wednesday, the Helena City Commission finalized details for a curbside recycling partnership that will be available to most Helena residents starting this coming January (residents living in commercial apartments are not part of the city's solid waste system). 

Initially the program will allow residents to pay for bi-monthly curbside service through their water bill.  Collection will include aluminum and tin cans, corrugated and non-corrugated cardboard, paper/newsprint/magazine, and type 1 & 2 plastics (images below). The cost of the service will be $10.95 per month, with a $6.95 charge going to residents and $4 being covered by the collection utility. Going forward the City will allow additional trash service options and the contractor will allow for once a month collection at $6.95 ($2.95 charge to residents). Costs of the recycling service will be reduced by $1 if a thousand residents sign up for the service. 

A related city goal it to allow additional trash options by July 2016. This is to include allowing residents with individual bins to elect for alternative weekly service to save staff time, fuel, and vehicle wear by reducing truck stops and lifts. It should allow residents choosing this option, or residents using community bins (67% of residents) to fully pay for once a month service if they elect to utilize half of their transfer station allowance to pay for the recycling service. The contractor said he could provide the once a month service option outlined in the contract summary, but may need a year to establish the option. 

More details follow. The importance of allowing for a once a month option is summarized here:

While this may be a positive direction, a critical component must not be overlooked. Residents who (A) recycle or generate less waste, (B) use community collection bins (the larger alley bins serving several residents with one truck stop) or do not fill their trash bins every week, and (C) have excess tonnage at the transfer station should be able to choose to pay for a monthly recycling pickup with the savings they provide to the solid waste system. For the city collection utility, these saving are reduced fuel, driver time, and equipment wear for requiring less trash pickups by shared bins or less than weekly pickups for individual bins. For the city transfer station, these savings are less trash by weight being charged by the transfer station and the landfill. 

The City of Helena was granted a monopoly on trash service with the promise of curbside recycling. Wednesday's action should give residents a voluntary option to direct their assessment towards recycling if they generate less trash and provide savings to Helena's solid waste system. Please consider attending this important meeting to demonstrate support for recycling. More details here.

Summary of Contract Between City and Helena Recycling:
(From 10-14-15 Admin Packet, download Full Admin Packet Here)

(From 10-14-15 Admin Packet, download Full Admin Packet Here)

(From 10-14-15 Admin Packet, download Full Admin Packet Here)

(From 10-14-15 Admin Packet, download Full Admin Packet Here)
Further, the commission agree to suspend the trip visit policy at the transfer station for permit holders. This policy was strongly recommended to the commission as part of the recent solid waste efficiency study. The policy is misguided as I write here.

Lastly, the commission and staff further discussed capital improvements at the transfer station as a follow up to the budget process. Staff committed to get a contract in place with a consultant to address traffic flow at the facility in conjunctions with the following improvements: 

o Z-wall for clean/sorted Construction and Demolition Waste (allow additional diversion options for soft fill and other C&D Waste that could be used in construction projects, otherwise diverted, or sent to the lower cost C & D pit at the landfill; this would also prevent staff time needed to prevent damage to specialized tractor trailers used to transfer waste to the landfill)

o Convenience bin for customers with smaller loads of trash (this could also allow for more flexibility in staffing facility; for example, Sundays in the Winter could be staffed with fewer personal by not having to open up the transfer station pit/floor, but allowing residents to still recycle and bring household levels of trash)

o Shelter for the e-waste collection (and workers of!) and recycling area, including compactors for plastics program, and consolidation of bins (would provide better working environment, allow residents to make fewer stops to recycle)

o Removal of loader bay/shed for operations of TS floor (Current shelter for loader is due for replacement, limits floor access to the pit, and restricts loader operations on the floor)

o Some structure for the loader that could double for recycling and events such as Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection (for limited events, the full structure could be used with the loader stored at pit floor)