By SEAN BATURA
Nine months after implementing single-stream recycling for single-family residences, San Marcos city officials are kicking off a pilot program that could lead permanently to single-stream recycling for apartment renters.
The city council approved a pilot program last week involving a mix of small, medium and large apartment and mobile home complexes to participate in the six-month program. The apartments asked to participate in the program include Garden Oaks, Bishop Corner, Chestnut, Sundance, Mockingbird CM Allen Homes, Mariposa and The Sanctuary.
The pilot program’s price tag is $23,718, which includes costs for collection and 18-gallon bins for 597 residential units. The six-month service will be performed by the same company that now offers garbage pickup and single-stream recycling to homes — Texas Disposal Systems (TDS).
The council saved $14,400 by declining the educational website and video advertisement TDS offered to create, but asked TDS to provide written educational materials at a cost of $3,960, the need for which Councilmember Chris Jones alone questioned. The council took no formal vote on the matter, but offered direction to staff by consensus.
The city implemented a single-stream curbside recycling program for homeowners in April, which the council has deemed a success. But most residents, being multi-family residential dwellers, still have no such service.
For the purposes of recycling, at least, the city defines “multi-family” as building complexes of five units or more. “Single-stream” refers to the method of recycling service pickup — it means that all materials are placed in one container by the customer and sorted at a later date by the contractor.
“I’m fine with the pilot program,” said Councilmember John Thomaides at last week’s city council meeting. “However, I just have to ask this: We are now 11 months away from our original direction (to staff) to provide single-stream recycling at apartment complexes. That was the direction. I know there are some logistical problems, but it’s not rocket science. I mean, we were wondering, ‘Would it work with single family?’ And it did … Can we or can we not provide single-stream recycling for everybody in San Marcos? That’s all I want to know. Can we do it?”
City of San Marcos Assistant Director of Public Services Sabas Avila replied, “Those are some of the questions that we hope to answer with our pilot program.”
The city issued a request for proposals (RFP) for multi-family (apartments) and commercial single-stream recycling in 2008 but rejected the bids as being too high. The bidders, TDS and Green Guy Recycling, said upfront capital costs and an uncertain customer base were reasons why their bids came in higher than city staff expected. In January 2009, when the two bids were rejected, the council told city staff to lay the groundwork for mandatory, multi-family single-stream services.
City officials hope the pilot program will answer such questions as how many containers would be required per apartment complex, whether to utilize small bins, how to address on-site space limitations, who has responsibility for moving containers curbside, whether materials should be sorted at the curb or be single-streamed, what level of contamination can be expected, the degree of potential conflicts of contaminated material transfer to competing solid waste providers, and how much in garbage service reductions may result.
The city spent an estimated $103,395 for recycling pickup services in Fiscal Year 2009 and budgeted $141,765 for FY 2010. The city spent an estimated $1,275,770 for waste collection services — which includes recycling — in FY 2009, and budgeted $1,569,896 for FY 2010.
Residents of single-family homes paid a slightly higher fee to the city for garbage collection under the new program. The monthly rate increased from $15.98 to $17.89.
Jones said dumpsters for recycled materials ought to be used in the pilot program for large multi-family complexes.
“That, to me, makes more sense than having 20 recycling cans out in front of a complex,” Jones said.
City staff said the six-month pilot program will not involve dumpsters because TDS does not have the proper trucks to handle them. A TDS representative said last week that the use of dumpsters is possible, but not likely to be cost-effective for the city, as the company would have to acquire an additional truck and pass along the attendant cost.
City staff examined the recycling habits of what they termed “model green cities” such as Atlanta, Austin, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle. Staff said all the aforementioned cities except Atlanta require recycling services to be offered at homes, apartments, and commercial buildings.
Austin limited its mandatory recycling for multi-family and commercial complexes to those of more than 100 units. Atlanta, Austin and San Francisco require single-stream recycling at houses only. Portland requires single-stream recycling at apartments only, and Seattle requires single-stream at apartments and houses.Email | Print