Residential curbside recycling… it’s a stinky subject that we may not be able to turn our noses up at for much longer…
Do you recycle? We do. But I admit, if it weren’t for the hired hand who comes to our door every week to pick up the contents of our blue bin, we would recycle less. Because recycling is sort of like exercise: if it’s too much hassle, it probably won’t get done.
And no, I don’t wash out and recycle every soup can either. However, I feel a little better about myself when I see the recycling company drive away with a truck full of garbage that would otherwise end up in the Lethbridge landfill.
Curbside recycling is available in Lethbridge, but you will pay for it out of pocket to a private contractor. I personally have no problem with this and am happy to compensate someone for this wonderful convenience. However, many municipalities now offer curbside recycling as a public service. And, as with all public services, they cost money too.
The question is: should residential curbside recycling be provided publicly or privately?
There has been a lot of chatter about integrating doorstep services into Lethbridge’s municipal roster. Our mayor recently posted a comprehensive update on where we’re at with this issue, as a city. What caught my attention was Mayor Spearman’s pointed comments about the very real threat of an impending waste management crisis if we don’t deal with this sooner than later:
I want to assure you that the concept of curbside recycling is not just a feel-good exercise. Curbside recycling has been in practice in other cities for decades. While I commend all residents who use the current drop-off depots, the fact remains that a high proportion of residents do not. The result is that only 10 per cent of the residential waste in Lethbridge is diverted from the landfill through the existing recycling stations. Through other diversion programs such as e-waste, yard waste and branch chipping, another 10 per cent is diverted.
In most cities, the residential waste diversion rate is 40 per cent or more, and they are continually seeking to increase their diversion rates to much higher levels. The main contributing factor to our comparatively poor rate of waste diversion in Lethbridge has been identified as convenience. I doubt that there are many in our city who are proud of our community’s performance to date regarding waste diversion.
An important consideration is that we have about eight years of capacity left in the existing, provincially approved waste cells at our landfill. Any efforts to divert waste away from the landfill will extend the life of the landfill and defer future costs associated with landfill development. We are in the process of seeking provincial approvals required to expand the landfill. By increasing diversion rates, we will extend the life of our landfill capacity.
~ Chris Spearman, Mayor’s Monthly Column, City of Lethbridge, January 16, 2015
Landfill management is no small task… or cost. Neither is shopping for massive swaths of land to annex for such an operation. As a citizen of Lethbridge, curbside recycling is suddenly at the forefront of my mind.
Pubic or private, nothing in a free society is actually free.
There is a cost to everything we do or don’t do in our communities. Spearman says that publicly provided curbside services would add $10-$20 per month to our utility bills. I don’t know how a public service compares to recycling options offered by a private contractor, but our private doorstep service costs just under $200 per year. Hmm…
Do you feel private citizens ought to make the decision for themselves? Given we all contribute to the landfill (unless you’re a squirrel), who’s responsibility is it to ensure that we minimize municipal waste? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.