Raleigh exploring ways to increase residents' recycling
Posted May 13, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — The more trash Raleigh residents toss out, the more they pay – that's one idea city leaders are learning about as part of an effort to reduce the amount of solid waste going into landfills and increasing recycling efforts.
Fred Battle, director of Raleigh Solid Waste Services, presented the idea – one among many – during a meeting Tuesday of the City Council's Budget and Economic Development Committee.
Since 2000, Battle said, the city's annual solid waste collection has increased by 29 percent, or 38,000 tons.
A "pay-as-you-throw" program – where residents would be charged based on how much trash they put out for collection – could result in up to a 30 percent decrease in solid waste and up to a 60 percent increase in materials being recycled.
The concept is gaining in popularity nationwide, from about 100 programs in the late 1980s to more than 7,000, as of 2007.
How it works varies, Battle said. In some cities, residents buy or rent selected-sized containers based on how much trash they use. In other cities, residents pay per bag of trash. Other cities charge additional fees or taxes if customers exceed a permitted amount of waste.
A "pay-as-you-throw" program would cost up to $3.2 million to implement and up to $600,000 annually. Annual revenue could range from $30,000 to $350,000.
Environmental groups, such as the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, support ideas to increase recycling in Raleigh, and so do city leaders.
"I would love to see us move to a utility structure where people would get charged based on the amount of trash they actually generate and make it more of an equitable system," said Councilman Bonner Gaylord, who represents much of northwest Raleigh.
Councilman Eugene Weeks, who represents southeast Raleigh, said such a program could be problematic.
"It would definitely be a hardship on the people I know," he said. "It's not only in my district but people in other districts."
Although there is no timeframe to implement a program, Raleigh residents, like Barbara Fraser, already have an opinion.
Fraser composts, recycles and tries to limit her solid waste, but she says she does not like the idea.
"I don't think it would help," said Fraser, who composts and recycles. "I think people are going to do what they want to do."
City leaders also heard several other options.
Battle presented an idea that uses radio frequency identification to reward customers who recycle with reduced fees and prizes.
Although it could help increase recycling, he said, implementing the program would cost up to $600,000 while estimated annual revenue would be less than $65,000.