San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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It is truly a great day to be a San Marcos Citizen. I am happy to be a part of our progressive, forward thinking City Council .

As I am sure many of you know the San Marcos City Council has been talking trash for about three months, and I don’t mean singing the obvious benefits our city has over the other cities in the corridor, but literally discussing our trash contract. One of the many progressive forward thinking ideas discussed at the last City Council meeting was single stream recycling. Single stream recycling refers to a system in which all paper fibers and containers are mixed together in a collection truck, instead of being sorted into separate commodities (newspaper, cardboard, plastic, glass, etc.) by the handler at the truck and thus handled separately throughout the collection process. Each residence would be given a 65 gallon cart, just like your garbage cart, only slightly smaller.

In single stream, both the collection and processing systems must be designed to handle this fully commingled mixture of recyclables. The major difference with this process for San Marcos is that our contractor instead of coming into town five days a week to pick up recycled goods, would only come into town once every other week, impacting the longevity of our city streets. In addition, if we went this route, it would mean there is the possibility that our citizens would have more recyclable options, meaning you would be able to recycle all types of plastic, cardboard, phone books and even cereal boxes in addition to what you currently recycle.

At the request of my colleague and direction of the entire city council, Texas Disposal Systems researched the feasibility of single stream recycling for the city of San Marcos. We found out that single stream recycling was highly feasible for our city. It is estimated to cost an additional $1.77 per month. Our new contract reduces our monthly bill by .25, so this would result in an additional 1.50 to each residence. As a council member, I represent the entire city and one thing that I have to consider is how a $1.77 impacts all of our citizens, including the poor.

With this in mind, I still believe that single stream is something we should do. I am sure you know that the City of San Marcos is going from a two time a week trash pick up to one time a week. Council has hounded Texas Disposal Systems to give San Marcos residents an additional trash bin for free and the best we could do was get you and additional bin for $5.00 more a month or you could outright purchase an additional trash bin from TDS for $95.00. I think single stream recycling is a third option, because with single stream recycling you have the ability to recycle many of the items you currently have to throw away.

I assume you will have the same amount of waste with single stream recycling we are just giving you an additional means of disposing of it. You can pay $95.00 dollars outright for a bin that might last around five years, $5.00 additional dollars a month for another bin or $1.77 a month for a larger recycling bin and an expanded list of things you can recycle. I must also add that the additional $1.77 a month is better viewed as an investment because it is saving energy.

A lot of energy is needed to make products. Energy is saved by reducing or reusing the amount of products we need to buy. Recycling also frequently saves energy because it can take less energy to clean or convert materials. For example, less energy is required to produce a gallon of re-refined oil than creating new oil. In my mind, single stream is the thing to do. I believe the poor in our community could afford an additional $1.77 a month or $21.24 a year.

Finally, I believe single stream recycling is also a good idea because it is an integral part of making recycling more affordable for apartment complexes. To my knowledge there are no apartment complexes in San Marcos that offer recycling. I surveyed many of the complex owners to find out why they don’t offer a recycling program to their residents and I was told because it is too expensive.

If the city were to go to single stream recycling our current provider believes they would be able to offer recycling carts to apartment complexes at a reasonable cost. I am sure it cost apartment complexes more to have a dumpster full of trash picked up versus a few carts full of recycling. At minimum I believe it would offset the current cost. If there are several residents in this complex who are recycling then it cuts down on the stream of trash going into the larger dumpster, meaning the complex would then have the ability to change their dumpster dumping schedule from lets say two times a week to one time a week.

Single stream recycling is not just some sexy green initiative it just makes sense.

City Councilman Place 4

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0 thoughts on “Recycling Step 1: a column by Chris Jones

  1. Chris, great news for apartments to have the opportunity to recycle. Any plans to offer recycling opportunities downtown? Currently, I load up cans, bottles and plastics and drive them to Green Guy.

  2. Chris, this is important work. All the best as you and the council work to make it happen. Our town and university can be a demonstration of responsible environmental management.

  3. There is a special workshop on this at 6pm Tuesday where we need to let our leaders know we want to make a positive step forward to Single Stream Recycling. Call, email, let the Mayor and City Council Members know this is important. Since it is a special workshop, there is no agenda entry for public in-person in-advance input, so we each need to call and email. And it is especially important for concerned citizens to proactively reach out to our city leaders in advance of this particular workshop, because at this 6pm Tuesday workshop the City Council will probably provide direction to staff in this matter.

  4. Chris, Just thought I’d let you know that the Timbers Apartments across from Campus DOES offer recycling. They have created a recycling center in the middle of their community. So there is ONE apartment community that recycles and pays for it out of their own pocket.

  5. Congratulations Vicci and the thanks to the Timbers Apartments. I truly believe that SSR will offer a pathway to a simple and effective recycling program for all apartments and businesses. Please continue to communicate with the City Council with ideas and comments as we move toward the goal of making recycling available and affordable to all apartment residents in San Marcos.

  6. Currently I am not sure what plans we have for downtown recycling. Some of my colleagues on council have mentioned downtown drop off stations and recycling centers. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer at this time. Council was unable to give any feedback or direction to staff on single stream recycling, or the recycling R.F.P. because some members of the council were unable to attend the last meeting. We will be reconsidering these items at the second meeting in July, and all of council should be present. Vicci thanks for the heads up.

  7. It is great we are improving our recycling program in San Marcos, but lets try to keep the spin to a minimum, once a week pickup “impacts the longevity of our city streets” is streaching it a bit. Regardless keep up the good work.

  8. Chris- San Marcos is lucky to have inherited you. You give a damn, and that is awesome. I would love to see San Marcos establish itself as a “green” leader in Texas by pursuing new approaches to old problems.

    What if we disallow plastic shopping bags in San Marcos, and provided a subsidy for reusable canvas ones instead?

  9. Easy access to recycling will drastically change the environmental landscape of San Marcos. I recycle, but I have lived with roommates who don’t and anecdotally, I estimate that upwards of 50% of the trash college students throw away is recyclable. Just think of a few staples of off-campus college life, glass beer bottles, aluminum beer cans, plastic disposable water bottles, paper (newspapers, handouts, etc.), not to mention the ridiculous amount of cardboard and plastic packaging all of our food comes in. This is certainly a step in the right direction towards becoming a leader in environmental sustainability in South Texas.

  10. Chris, this is the kind of thinking we need more off. It is extremely important that recycling become an easier thing to do in San Marcos. Currently it is not. If a citywide single stream recycling program is introduced (and I am glad that it would be cost-effective) then it would be feasible for the city to install single stream recycling bins around the downtown area, by the post office, near campus etc. The biggest barrier is with apartment complexes…it’s very difficult to recycle without bins because the lack of space means your items to be recycled just pile up in a closet or in your kitchen. Large recycling bins at every complex would make recycling dramatically more appealing.

    I also like the idea of San Marcos taking the lead on banning plastic bags. Austin had the chance to set this standard but backed away. Part of the problem of course is that such a ban in Austin would be a big deal and affect a lot of stores…in San Marcos the scale is much more reasonable and the city could gain headlines and promote itself as a forward thinking green leader, something that is sure to be an investment draw…compared to the past where progressive environmentalism was seen only as “anti-business”, that has changed greatly espeically in Central Texas. The city could work with retailers to promote a free reusuable bag day once a month, one bag for every member of a family. Most of my friends who live around campus (including myself) are already using the green bags that you can get at HEB for 99 cents. More people would but just don’t think about it and the absence of plastic bags would definitely make them think about it.

  11. Save the Energy Block Grant

    Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee decided not to fund the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), a top legislative priority for America’s cities and towns. Instead, the Subcommittee appropriated $50 million for competitive grants to local governments for Renewable Energy / Zero Energy Demonstration Projects. Unlike the block grant which would provide flexible and on-going funding for local energy programs, the Subcommittee’s proposal would turn the block grant into a competitive program which would provide limited flexibility and funding.

    The full Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill tomorrow at 2 pm.

    Please call your Senators TODAY and urge their support for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program.

    Ø The Energy Block Grant program allows local autonomy, and gives cities the flexibility to choose programs and initiatives that match the needs of their communities.
    Ø Cities and towns have been delivering innovative energy conservation and environmental protection programs for years. The “Energy Block Grant” would enable cities and towns to sustain the progress already made and support even broader local action in the future.
    Ø Support full funding for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program at $2 billion for fiscal year 2009.

    To contact your Senators, please call the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or

    284 Russell Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC 20510-4304
    202-224-0776 (FAX)
    202-224-5903 (TDD)

    Senator John Cornyn AKA (Big John)
    Washington DC
    517 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
    Washington, DC 20510
    Main: 202-224-2934
    Fax: 202-228-2856

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