The City Council Tuesday gave its unanimous approval to a more extensive curbside refuse recycling program that will parallel what many cities in the country are already doing: requiring residents to sort out their recyclable materials from all other garbage instead of having the Pleasanton Garbage Company do it for them.
The new service also will cost more, jumping by $1.04 a month for those who cut back on sending non-recyclable waste to the garbage collector, to as much as 14 percent more for those who don't.
The new rates approved by the council will be increased from $28.04 to $29.13 a month for those opting for a smaller 35-gallon general refuse cart to $34.57 a month for a larger 96-gallon cart, which is the same size as the all-purpose carts residents now have. These will be used for all refuse that is not recyclable, such as broken glass, used pizza cartons and plastics that don't meet recyclable standards.
In addition to the all-purpose refuse cart, residents also will be given a 96-gallon cart for recyclables only. These will be used for materials clearly capable of being recycled, including cardboard, aluminum foil and plastic bags, aluminum, steel and tin cans, glass jars and bottles of all colors, and plastic bottles with the numbers 1 to 7 printed on the bottom, including most water bottles.
Residents will keep the 64-gallon carts they now use for grass clippings and other yard debris. Coffee grounds and other food scraps that are not usually flushed through sink disposers can also be placed in these smaller carts. However, a small, under-the-sink plastic bucket that Pleasanton residents were given free several years ago for these food scraps, will no longer be provided.
Labels will be placed on each of the containers to specify what can go in them, and what can't. In addition, the Pleasanton Garbage Service will make periodic checks in each neighborhood to determine if the new recycling rules are being followed.
Currently, Pleasanton residents dump all of their refuse, except grass clippings, into a single 96-gallon can which is picked up weekly and taken to the Pleasanton Garbage Service's material recovery facility at its Bush Road transfer station. There, crews sort through the refuse on a fast-moving conveyor belt, separating possible recyclables from wet garbage, old clocks and radios and hundreds of other materials. Then a separate sorting-out takes place to send recyclable plastics, glass, paper and other discards to special bins that are sent to recycling companies.
The process, which was heralded as a breakthrough in garbage recycling when the facility opened, has since lagged in meeting the Alameda County diversion target of 75 percent in 2010, with approximately only 54 percent of refuse collected in Pleasanton now being diverted from landfills.
With residents now required to sort their recyclables before taking garbage curbside--once the new carts ae delivered--the recovery facility will be converted to handle only the separation of those recyclable materials. Garbage placed in the all-purpose refuse cans—whether the 96-gallon or the 35-gallon size—will be taken directly to the landfill without sorting.
Steve Bocian, assistant city manager, worked with Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and Councilman Matt Sullivan over the last year to study current garbage collection procedures and those adopted by other cities.
"We're the only city in Alameda County without (curbside) recycling," Sullivan said. "We're lagging behind meeting the new 75 percent goal, which is very important."
Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio agreed.
"I have young people asking me all the time why we don't do a better job of recycling," she said. "I like curbside recycling and I don't think the adjustment will be as difficult as some may think. Sure, people will see a rate hike, but consider the cost effectiveness in terms of what we do with our environment by not dumping in our landfill. This is something we need to do."
Bocian said that in their studies, the council group along with representatives of Pleasanton Garbage and a consultant from the Alameda County StopWaste.org agency found that many residents didn't know Pleasanton has a material recovery facility where the garbage placed in the current 96-gallon cart is manually sorted through and recyclables are recovered.
New residents moving here from other cities often call the city or the garbage company asking for a recycling cart similar to what they had been using before, he said.
Only one resident showed up at Tuesday night's public hearing, which had been advertised by the city during the previous week. He expressed surprise that a thousand hadn't come to the meeting to object, as he did, to a garbage service rate increase at a time when current weak economic conditions should have called for a rate reduction. It turned out he lives in a town home community where refuse is placed in large commercial dumpsters and collected at a higher rate fee.
At Councilwoman Cindy McGovern's urging, Bocian agreed to look at commercial rates being charged to some residential communities to see if discounts could be made available.
A new commercial program also is under consideration, including a request now that asks companies to voluntarily sort out recyclables. Once details of the program are determined, Bocian said it should be implemented as a new requirement by March of next year.
McGovern also pointed out that residents who are at least 62 years old can qualify for a 15 percent discount on their garbage bills, but she doesn't think most seniors know about that. Bocian said the city and the Pleasanton Garbage Service would send out advisories informing residents of the discount.
Councilman Jerry Thorne said that while he didn't like the idea of raising garbage rates in the current economy, he would vote to approve the hikes and the new curbside recycling program, especially with the reduced rate for the new 35-gallon, all-refuse cart which will raise rates by only $1.09 a month.
"You can bet I'll be among the first to request the smaller-sized can," Thorne said.
The city has maintained an exclusive refuse collection and recycling franchise agreement with Pleasanton Garbage Service since 1989. The franchise agreement runs through June 30, 2019.