Curbside recycling for city of Yuma residents continues to be a thorny issue for the Yuma City Council, which remained divided over whether to proceed after hearing a presentation at a special work session Tuesday evening.
Various surveys quizzing residents on whether they would support a recycling program failed to provide clear direction — the results were split 50 percent for recycling and 48 percent opposed, reported Ricky Rinehart, operations administrator. And few were willing to pay an additional fee for the service.
The survey results may well have been skewed because there was no cost-effective way to prevent people from filling out the online version of the survey multiple times, Rinehart observed. A total of 1,486 online respondents opposed recycling to 835 in favor.
On the other hand, he said, those who filled out the survey received with their water bills were much more favorable to a recycling program — 66 percent supportive and 30 percent opposed.
The question about an additional cost may have been a little misleading.
“It was always our focus to not add a cost for recycling,” said Joel Olea, director of field operations, noting that the only additional cost to the city would be for the purchase of recycling containers for each household.
However, he said he expects the city would save more than $100,000 a year in tipping fees at the landfill. In addition, recycling would offer some opportunities to generate revenue.
Councilman Edward Thomas said what he's been hearing is that people aren't opposed to recycling, but they don't want to pay for the service and they're concerned about a change in the schedule of solid trash collection.
Currently, solid trash is collected twice a week. Under the recycling program being proposed, regular solid trash would be collected once a week and recyclables picked up on the alternate day each week.
Thomas said he believes people would find that they have actually have more recyclables than regular trash.
Olea also noted that residents can be provided an additional trash container for a small fee.
Some council members suggested it was time to make a decision. However, Mayor Al Krieger remained cool to the idea, saying he thinks that other options are available that should be explored before the city adopts a recycling program.
For example, he said, he knows of one city that provides residents with green bags for collection of their recyclables that can be placed in their trash container with their other trash. The green bags are then retrieved at transfer stations. This would avoid the cost of recycling containers and address residents' concern about frequency of trash collection.
“I think the information provided by the mayor about the bags is a game changer,” said Councilman Paul Johnson.
The adjournment of the special work session wasn't the end of the discussion, though.
During the regular work session that followed, the subject of recycling again came up during a presentation by the Clean and Beautiful Commission. Chairman David Psolka told the council that the commission has been looking at household recycling and mentioned a flier it is distributing that lists materials that are recyclable and those that aren't.
The flier was developed for the Arizona Western College campus recycling program, said Tim Taylor, AWC student president. He noted that with some education of the student body, the program is “snowballing. AWC could be an example for the city. There were barriers to overcome and walls to break down, but we're getting there.”