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January 30, 2015

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Convenience, affordability at odds in county recycling debate


Las Vegas Sun File

Recyclables are sorted at the Republic Services recycling facility. The company is testing a once-a-week trash and recycling pickup program in a Henderson ward.


Republic Services says it would cost $20 million in mechanized trucks and $10 million for new bins, to implement a countywide policy of picking up recyclables in one bin instead of three. Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani argues that the company would save millions of dollars a year by paying out less in workers’ compensation as a result of the new trucks.

Beyond the Sun

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani wants the Las Vegas Valley’s trash hauler to make recycling more convenient without scaling back its twice-a-week garbage collection schedule.

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Chris Giunchigliani

Giunchigliani is proposing that Republic Services begin offering single-stream recycling, which allows customers to put all their recyclables in one bin, as soon as March. It’s an option that has been tested in various pilot programs throughout the county for nearly two years.

“The time to study this is over,” she said Monday.

Republic Services has resisted the change, saying it would be too costly because it requires the purchase of new trucks. To proceed and defray the cost, however, the company proposes cutting back to once-a-week garbage collection, which it says is working well in pilot programs.

Bob Coyle, Republic Services vice president of government relations, said if Giunchigliani’s plan is approved, Clark County residents will pay higher trash fees.

The debate will come to a head today as Giunchigliani tries to persuade fellow commissioners to amend Republic Services’ contract to maintain its twice-a-week trash pickup while replacing the red (plastic and metal), white (paper) and blue (glass) recycling bins used by most homes in unincorporated Clark County, with a single recycling bin. She also wants Republic and the county to talk about creating a “recycle bank” that provides recycle incentives in the form of credits that can be spent at local businesses.

Some commissioners appeared reluctant Monday to join Giunchigliani’s call for change.

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Tom Collins

“I think her environmental exuberance is getting in the way of making these changes through the right process,” Commissioner Tom Collins said.

Collins added that he recycles, although a bit unconventionally given that he lives near Logandale. “If I have biodegradables, I just throw them in the yard and let the chickens or the bugs get at it.”

The problem with Giunchigliani’s plan, he said, is that he doesn’t think the company has made enough money to cover the cost of new trucks needed for single-stream recycling — trucks with pneumatic arms to lift large bins into their beds. Republic Services, he noted, keeps getting hit with more expenses to recap and monitor Sunrise Landfill, which tore open during a torrential downpour in 1998. This year, Republic began a $20 million recapping project on the 440-acre landfill scheduled for completion in 2012.

“Don’t just come out and say, ‘I want you to start doing this,’ ” Collins added. “Let’s look at what makes the most sense, is logical and practical and better for our service.”

Commissioner Steve Sisolak doesn’t recycle, but would if all he had to do is toss his recyclables in a single bin. Even so, he doesn’t appear ready to support Giunchigliani’s plan to amend Republic’s contract.

Like Collins, Sisolak cites the cost for the company. Republic estimates the cost of buying new trucks at $20 million. Add to that the $10 million cost of new recycling bins for the county’s 210,000 households.

“Maybe I could go for it if (the cost) was spread out over time,” Sisolak said.

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Kathleen Boutin

He pointed to an idea being tested in Henderson. About two weeks ago, Councilwoman Kathleen Boutin’s ward went to once-a-week garbage and once-a-week recycling pickup. In addition, Republic buys for the homeowner both the recycling bin and trash bin. In just two weeks, Boutin said, most of her constituents seem happy with the change.

“I hear two things,” Boutin said. “ ‘I never recycled before, and I feel good about it now, and you make it so easy.’ And ‘I’ve always recycled, but I love this, and I’d never go back to the old system.’ ”

Giunchigliani said Henderson residents view things differently when the summer heat arrives and starts cooking trash that is only picked up once a week. “They don’t have the smell right now.”

She added that if the county changed trash pickup to once a week and used the bins that Republic would purchase, “unlimited trash pickup” would disappear.

“As it is now, if you have 10 bags of trash, they have to pick it up,” she said. “If we used their bins, they’d only pick up what would fit in those bins.”

But Coyle said if the county went to once-a-week trash pickup, the schedule would allow homeowners to put out bulk items every other week. “So if you have the fronds from 20 palm trees piled up, you’d put them out and we’d pick them up,” he said.

Coyle added that Republic is interested in moving to automated trash pickers, but not as rapidly as Giunchigliani would like.

The company recognizes its workers are injured to the tune of almost $3 million in worker compensation costs each year. In Anaheim, Calif., with a similar number of households, its workers’ compensation bill is only about $300,000, largely because the trucks are automated.

The millions in potential savings here would help defray the cost of purchasing trash bins for households in unincorporated Clark County, he said.

Giunchigliani said she sees her amendment as a compromise because she is no longer asking for weekly recycling pickup.

“This can work, I just hope they give it a chance,” she said.

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  1. Recycling is a great idea. At least this discussion is on the table.

  2. My family is in the pilot program in Henderson and its a bad deal. The largest problem with it is that our trash pick up days have been reduced to once a week, while our bill has remained the same. Meanwhile, we are sorting trash for Republic Services. So, less service, we are doing their work, and we are paying the same. It all equates to a bad deal for the consumer. Please revert to the old system.

    Chris G. has a point about the summer. I can see why Republic Services started the "pilot" program in December and not July. The smell of week-old heated garbage would end this debate immediately.

  3. just another way to raise our already too high garbage pickup rates ...... just say no .....

  4. When I lived in Riverside, CA a few years ago, we were given 3 large trash containers. A blue one for the recycleables, a brown one for non recycleables and a green one for landscaping.

    The pick-ups were once a week and everybody on our street did the same thing....when one of the blue or brown containers were full we simply used the other container. So even though it's suppose to separate the recycleable from non-recycleable, it usually didn't.

  5. As human beings on this planet with limited resources, WE CANNOT AFFORD NOT TO RECYCLE. Do some research, do you care? You better. I'm enrolled in Environmental Science at CSN. Take a class, and LEARN. Environmental issues are successful when they balance - financially, politically and environmentally. I have recycled for years, in NV, CO, UT. I'm from SLC, UT and they REQUIRE County residents to recycle. If you put out too much trash you are fined. That's how it really should be. Recycling should be mandatory. We waste so much on this planet, and sooner or later the planet will not support us - recycling is necessary, regardless of how inconvenient or costly it may be. There is and always will be other costs. Think about it.

  6. Commissioner Sisolak doesn't recycle? Us "small" people do. I guess privilege has its perks? And Commissioner Collins' solution would run afoul of a lot of HOA rules, especially since most neighbors aren't fond of chickens in the back yard (maybe they were a gift from Sue Lowden?)

    But really folks. I've been recycling since day one with the baskets. I can say that I'm growing weary of separating and carrying them to the curb. The red one is always too full and you have to put something over them if it's windy.

    And to those that whine about "exorbitant" fees for trash pickup. We pay about $40 bucks a quarter for trash service. Come on, that's rock bottom pricing there.

    Give me the single recycling can. With any luck it'll be somewhat of a deterrent from the roving metal scroungers that patrol my neighborhood on trash days.

  7. The only real cost effective commodity to recycle is aluminum.

  8. When we lived in Orlando we had once a week pick up for recycling and twice for trash and we paid more than we do here. You get what you pay for.
    We had one bin for paper, one for glass, alum, cans, and one for yard waste. It worked great and you could go to the landfill and get compost. People that had trouble picking up the bins and moving them to the curb would buy 3 tiered holders to roll them out.
    We need to recycle and people need to get their heads out of their rear ends and accept change. Just because it has "always been this way", doesn't mean we don't need to change.
    Recycled a whole lot more in Virginia than we did in Florida. Only had once a week pick up for trash in Virginia, but had so little trash, it was not a problem.