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April 20, 2014

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Once-a-week trash and recycling pickup for 210,000 county customers wins approval

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Sam Morris

Republic Services Recycling Manager Chris Detweiler stands next to bales of aluminum cans. Pilot programs with only one container have increased tonnage for Republic Services.

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 | 8:15 p.m.

The Clark County Commission is amending its franchise agreement with trash hauler Republic Services to allow the company to extend a single-stream recycling program to 210,000 customers in the unincorporated county.

The issue: The commission considered whether to amend its franchise agreement with Republic Services switching customers in the unincorporated county to a single-stream recycling program with once-a-week trash and recycling pickup.

The vote: Approved 5 to 2, with Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Lawrence Weekly in opposition.

What it means: Republic Services can move forward with plans to bring single stream recycling to 210,000 customers in the unincorporated county, but it will still likely be at least two years before those customers see any change. The change will not result in any rate increase.

Before it can handle the expected increase in recyclable materials, the county’s waste collection franchisee needs to build a new recycling center at an expected cost of $25 million. Tuesday’s decision by the county commission gives the company the assurance it needs to begin submitting applications for permits with the city of North Las Vegas and move forward with designing and building the recycling plant located at Gowan Road and Commerce Street, said Bob Coyle, Republic Services vice president for government affairs.

The commission voted in February to approve an ordinance authorizing the switch to single-stream recycling, but at the time commissioners decided not to amend the franchise agreement until several questions were answered, effectively preventing Republic Services from launching the program.

A presentation Tuesday including a rate review and a customer survey addressed those questions and preceded a 5-2 vote by commissioners to amend the franchise agreement. Giunchigliani and Weekly opposed the amendment approved today; they also voted against the ordinance in February.

The amendment will allow Republic Services to begin transitioning customers in the unincorporated county from their usual red, white and blue recycling bins to a single cart for all recyclables. Coyle said the company expects to roll out the program in 2016.

Once the program is in place, recycling will be picked up weekly under the new agreement, but customers will lose one day of trash pickup per week.

The customer survey presented to commissioners showed 84.5 percent of people already using single-stream recycling were satisfied with the program, with about 20 percent of respondents unhappy with the loss of a day of trash pickup per week.

The county audit department also reviewed Republic Service’s recycling reports and found that switching from the individual bins to a single-stream cart led to an average per household increase in recycling from about 10 pounds to 42 pounds per month.

The decrease in trash pickup frequency was one of several concerns addressed by commissioners during a three-hour-long debate Tuesday.

Representatives from the local Teamsters Union and several Republic Services employees the union represents said that the switch to single-stream recycling in Henderson and North Las Vegas is already leading to a reduction in hours for truck drivers due to fewer trash pickups.

Weekly said although he supports the switch to single-stream recycling personally, many of his constituents do not.

“Some of the constituents I’m talking to are just concerned. They are experiencing the lack of hours,” Weekly said. “It’s a concern for me.”

Other issues included the veracity of Republic Services numbers that showed homes using single stream recycled 20 to 25 percent more of their waste and the cost of switching back to twice a week trash pickup if residents are unhappy with the new program.

Near the end of the debate, Commissioner Larry Brown said that although the concerns raised were legitimate, they didn’t overshadow the fact that residents already on the single-stream program are satisfied.

“One can challenge — and we’ve certainly heard that today — the percentages, the formulas, the rates, the audits, the profits ... and that’s fine,” Brown said. “But I don’t want to lose sight of a couple things, first and foremost everything seems to be positive statistically in customer feedback and I don’t think we can understate (that).”

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