San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

June 4th, 2008
From Chris Jones: ‘Single stream recycling just makes sense’

San Marcos City Councilman

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.

CHRIS JONES has been a San Marcos city council member since 2005. E-mail him at

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2 thoughts on “From Chris Jones: ‘Single stream recycling just makes sense’

  1. Chris – thank you for some good thinking, writing, and taking the time to do both. I live in Kyle and our recycling program here doesn’t amount to much. I moved here from the McKinney, TX. area back in December. Our recycling program there worked as you have described, and it was very good. I don’t recall exactly what we paid for our service, but it was worth it!

  2. Chris, 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.

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