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

October 7th, 2008
San Marcos council talks trash

Editor at Large

Single stream recycling probably is coming soon to San Marcos. The entire city council is in favor, and has come out in its favor in the past. At this point, though, much of the council doesn’t know what being for it actually means.

The council voted Tuesday night, with reservations, to approve the first reading of a proposal for single stream recycling with Texas Disposal Systems (TDS), with whom the city recently signed a five-year contract extension for residential trash pick-up and recycling.

Under the proposal, the move from two stream recycling to single stream recycling would increase the monthly residential trash bill by $1.77, from $13.98 to $15.75. Adding in the required taxes and fees, the increase is $1.91, from $15.98 to $17.89. The source of the price increase raised questions from the council, particularly Mayor Susan Narvaiz, who expressed frustration with the city staff and TDS for a lack of information.

Furthermore, the initiative to explore single stream recycling for single-family residences is taking place as the city has put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for companies to handle multi-family disposal and recycling. Thus, as the council attempts to make sense of the TDS proposal, it’s also trying to understand how it fits in with a total residential recycling program.  

Time remains for spelling out the details. The Monday night reading was only the first of three and, as Councilmember Daniel Guerrero pointed out, the council has been known to kill initiatives on the third reading.

The TDS proposal calls for $3.92 of the monthly $17.89 trash bill to go towards single stream recycling, in which all recyclable materials would go to a recycling center in one stream. Under the present two-stream system, TDS separates the paper from the other materials in the truck before it goes to the recycling center.

Steve Harvey of Sustainable San Marcos argued before the council that the city should take the deal, considering that New Braunfels residents pay $5.25 per month for recycling services.

Councilmember John Thomaides said outside the council chamber that San Marcos should act now and lock in a good rate, while Councilmember Chris Jones said in session that he thinks the deal with TDS would establish a pricing guideline for the city’s move to establish multi-family pickup.

TDS sales director Rick Fraumann told the council that his company would provide each residence with a 96-gallon recycling cart to be serviced every other week. However, other details were not as clear, for a variety of reasons.

Councilmember Kim Porterfield mentioned, for example, that if the single stream program stimulates more recycling, then TDS stands to not only realize greater sales revenues from the recycling facility to which it takes the materials, but TDS also would end up with less stress on its landfill. In that case, TDS realizes more revenue and fewer expenses. But if that’s the case, Porterfield asked, then why should San Marcos customers pay a rate increase?

Narvaiz added that she wanted more details about how the recycling is done, including an assessment about how much of the material actually gets recycled. And that, too, is in flux, along with the actual location of the recycling center where the materials would be taken.

Fraumann said the City of Austin has planned on opening a single stream center, but it’s opening is uncertain. Meanwhile, the Vista Fibers center in San Antonio is being sold to Greenstar. Therefore, it’s uncertain where the nearest single stream facility will open, and how it will operate.

“After the last (council) meeting, where all those citizens were concerned about a five-percent water rate increase, we would be remiss if we didn’t ask these questions,” Narvaiz said. “… I don’t want to be committed to a price that I just don’t understand.”

Fraumann said the price increase is complicated. But one aspect, he told council, is that materials delivered to the recycling center in a single stream actually generate less rebate money from the recycling center because the recycling center has to do the separating.

Later, outside the meeting, Fraumann said the move to single stream recycling also would require TDS to purchase the 96-gallon carts, the contents of which could be machine loaded into the trucks. Fraumann said TDS would have to purchase 7,000 such carts to service San Marcos residences.

Fraumann also allowed outside the meeting that TDS has never had a single stream customer, which adds another level of complication to the pricing.

The contract between TDS and San Marcos signed this year calls for two-stream recycling. The possibility of single stream recycling only came up later at the request of Thomaides.

“We’re not trying to push it one way or the other,” Fraumann said.

Responding to a request from Councilmember Pam Couch, the city staff researched the cost to the city if it just picks up the recycling with its own trucks and transports it directly to a recycling center. The staff said it would come to $4.37 per residence, which is 43 cents more than the TDS cost.

“They’ve done such a good job for us,” Thomaides said of TDS. “… I, for one, am very comfortable moving forward doing business with TDS.”

But other councilmembers won’t be comfortable until they hear more details.

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3 thoughts on “San Marcos council talks trash

  1. John,

    True enough, sir. However, both rates have added to them a recycling center fee (55 cents in each case), an ordinance-mandated reserve fund contribution (23 cents in each case), and tax (the present tax of $1.22 would increase to $1.36). So, the customer presently pays, in total, $15.98, and that would increase to $17.89 with single stream.

    I appreciate the clarification. The $1.77 is really the difference between the $13.98 and $15.75, which is the base rates without the added required fees and taxes. The difference between the everything included charges of $15.98 and $17.89 is $1.91. I have just now made that revision to reflect the accuracy of your statement.


  2. Ah yes, the dreaded garbage tax. I forgot we were taxed on that too. Pretty sad. I’d be curious to know how much the state raises annually from the “garbage tax”.

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