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November 26, 2014

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What’s the rush on county recycling decision, commissioner wonders

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Recycling bins are seen on a curb in Anthem on Tuesday, July 26, 2011.

If the Clark County Commission passes the single-stream recycling ordinance up for discussion at its Tuesday meeting, it will bring an end to nearly a decade of debate on the issue.

But after years of studies, committees and pilot programs, some still feel the process to overhaul waste collection in hopes of boosting recycling in the valley is going too fast.

“What’s the rush, especially when it’s something this major?” Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said. “Let us hold some town halls where we have debate and discussion.”

The proposed single-stream recycling ordinance, similar to a proposal that failed in 2010, was introduced at the commission’s Jan. 22 meeting. Under the ordinance, Republic Services, the county’s trash service provider, would replace the three colored recycling bins most homes in the unincorporated parts of the county currently use with a single cart that could be used for glass, paper and cans. Residential recycling pickup would increase to once a week instead of once every two weeks, but garbage pickup would be reduced to once per week. Residential rates would remain the same.

Under the ordinance, Republic Services would be required to provide single-stream recycling to every residence by 2017.

Residents will have a chance to weigh in on the ordinance at Tuesday’s commission meeting, when commissioners could vote to approve it. But outside of the required noticing for the meeting, little outreach has been done to the public this time around to gauge their opinions on the changes.

“You think we’d be more sensitive to doing as much public outreach on the matter as we could,” said Giunchigliani, who suggested customers be notified of the potential changes through their trash bills.

In an interview last month, Commissioner Steve Sisolak said the recycling issue had lingered before the commission for years and that some form of action was needed.

“We’ve had study committees. We’ve had work groups. At some point to be fair to the company and the citizens, I think you just need to take action,” said Sisolak, who as commission chairman sets the board’s agenda. “We need to introduce the ordinance and vote on it one way or the other.”

County spokesman Erik Pappa said the county has posted the meeting agenda’s in public areas as required by law and that the issue has received wide media coverage.

“It's been heavily debated in recent years and has had extensive media coverage. The news media has again been covering this issue and that’s been effective in getting the word out,” Pappa said in an e-mail.

Last week, Republic Services notified the 6,600 homes participating in a pilot single-stream recycling program about Tuesday’s commission meeting, asking them to share their thoughts with the county by phone or e-mail.

The company didn’t notify its other customers because there are too many homes, said Bob Coyle, Republic Services vice president for public affairs.

“All we were doing is letting customers on the program in unincorporated county know that the decision is coming up … (they) can best give the feedback on whether it’s good or bad because they’ve experienced it” Coyle said. “I don’t think Republic has any responsibility to go to the world and tell them there’s an issue before the county commission.”

Tommy Blitsch, secretary treasurer for Teamsters Local 631, has gotten involved in the single-stream recycling issue because he’s worried it could limit the hours and future job growth for Republic’s truck drivers, which the Teamsters represent.

But Blitsch said he’s also concerned many of his neighbors don’t know their trash pickup and recycling could change.

“The people we have talked with over the last month and a half about what is going on and how they are going to be affected did not know this is coming,” he said. “The majority of the residents do not know this is coming and when it goes through their neighborhood in a few years, you’re going to have upset people.”

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  1. As someone who has sorted his trash since recycling came to Las Vegas, single-stream recycling is the best thing they could have done in my neighborhood. Thrilled to have it.