City Beat

After residents’ complaints, return to weekly recycling to be studied in Sacramento

Describing the public outcry as “overwhelming,” some members of the Sacramento City Council on Tuesday expressed interest in returning the city to weekly recycling collection after just nine months of biweekly service.

As a result, city solid waste officials said they would launch a formal poll of city residents in the coming weeks to gauge interest in increasing recycling service – a change that would require an increase in rates. Steve Harriman, the city’s integrated waste general manager, said he would then report back to the City Council with the survey results and seek council direction about a possible change.

After six years of weekly collection, the city shifted to biweekly service in July 2013 to cut costs. In exchange, the city vowed not to increase solid waste rates until at least 2015 and brought back a popular household junk pickup program.

Some council members had asked for an update in recent months on the changes to recycling services after receiving complaints from residents.

While just two members of the public spoke at Tuesday’s meeting in support of going back to weekly service, council members said their offices have been flooded with calls by angry residents.

“This could be the No. 1 complaint, that people want more recycling,” Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said.

Councilman Kevin McCarty said “the calls we’re getting are overwhelming.” Councilman Steve Hansen, who asked for the recycling service update last fall, said he’s heard from many constituents who are unhappy with the new service.

Councilman Steve Cohn, who had also asked for the report on recycling collection, said he has heard from residents that they are not recycling as much since the city cut back to biweekly service.

“Most people are saying they have plenty of room in their garbage cans, but not in their recycling,” he said. “And we want people to be recycling.”

City solid waste officials said they would need to increase rates by $1.50 per month for all residents to afford weekly recycling service. The council is already expected to increase solid waste rates in July 2015, even without an increase in recycling service.

The extra $1.50 a month would be used to add nine trucks to the city’s solid waste fleet and nine employees to the waste collection staff.

“There are certainly advantages to the weekly collection,” Harriman said. “It is more convenient and there is less confusion (about collection schedules).” Harriman, however, did not recommend making the change.

The other option presented by city staff was to keep the current system in place and continue to allow those homeowners who want more space for recyclables to buy a second blue bin for $1.76 a month. That option is currently available, but Harriman said just 900 of 124,000 customers in the city pay for the second bin.

While recycling service was the focus of Tuesday’s hearing, city officials also said the decision by voters in 2012 to scale back yard waste collection by “the Claw” has worked.

Residents who were relying on the quirky machine to scoop up leaves and yard clippings are saving more than $3 a month by switching to green bins. And while the Claw is still used to collect yard clippings during the November-to-January leaf season, the amount of waste collected by the machine during that season this year was down 30 percent, officials said.