Lezlie Sterling / lsterling@sacbee.com

Yard waste and recycling containers line a street in Sacramento’s Land Park neighborhood. Some residents want the city to bring back weekly recycling pickup.

Editorial: Sacramento shouldn’t mess around with garbage collection yet

Published: Monday, Mar. 24, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Wednesday, Mar. 26, 2014 - 8:28 am

After all the effort and angst to improve Sacramento’s costly and confusing trash collection, it’s way too early to consider any major changes.

Some residents are clamoring for a return to weekly curbside recycling collection, according to a status report City Council members are getting Tuesday on the new system that started last July 1.

But going back would cost the city $2.2 million a year, take about a year to implement and add $1.50 a month to the bill for all residents – whether they want weekly recycling pickup or not, city officials say.

That would not be fair. A better alternative, outlined in the staff report, is for customers to get a second recycling can for $1.76 a month – an option chosen by only 900 of 124,000 households.

As it is, solid waste rates will not increase until July 2015, part of the bargain for voters when they passed a November 2012 ballot measure allowing the city to require residents to use containers for yard waste.

The reduction in recycling service was also a key trade-off. The city doesn’t want to discourage the environmentally responsible from keeping trash out of landfills. While recycling tonnage declined by 16 percent with once-weekly collection, the staff report says that decline continues a trend during the recession likely caused by residents buying fewer recyclable products. Also, when the city did have weekly collection, between 2007 and 2013, the average annual tonnage increased by less than 10 percent, the city says.

The other refuse changes are going about as expected, officials say.

• Yard waste collected in containers increased by nearly 10 percent from last July through January, compared with the same period a year earlier.

• During leaf season, yard waste picked up in the street by “the Claw” dropped by nearly 30 percent, because residents filled containers, but also because of the drought.

• There were more than 5,900 household junk pickups, and another 1,700 dump coupons for the city’s recycling and transfer station – both free perks of the new system.

A city messes with garbage collection at its peril. Sacramento needs to stay the course and focus on improving customer service, instead of making any big changes.

Read more articles by the Editorial Board

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