Decision Points

Cost questions impact timing of curbside recycling proposal

Questions regarding costs, both long term and short term, have pushed back City Council consideration of universal curbside recycling service in Round Rock.

Initially, the Council was to consider adopting a new residential solid waste disposal program in April, to go into effect on Oct. 1. Since then, there have been a couple of significant developments crop up as we work with our solid waste disposal provider, Round Rock Refuse.

Utilities Director Michael Thane made a presentation at the April 22 City Council meeting (Item 6D1 on the agenda).

Currently, most recyclables in our area are driven to San Antonio because there are no single-stream processing facilities in Central Texas. A facility was planned to be built in Austin, but that project is not proceeding as scheduled, so Round Rock Refuse is looking into the possibility of building its own recycling facility in Williamson County.

Diverting waste from landfills is becoming a bottom line issue as well as an environmental one. Landfill costs will increase 5 percent a year for the next three years; this is on top of a doubling of costs in 2009. So an effective recycling program is critical to managing long-term solid waste disposal costs for our citizens.

The short-term cost issue regards containers. The City may be able to purchase new, standardized containers for both garbage and recyclables for a slightly lower cost than Round Rock Refuse. We are still working through the pros and cons of the City purchasing and owning the containers versus Round Rock Refuse doing so.

Giving Round Rock Refuse time to develop plans for a single-stream facility and sorting through the container ownership issue means a new program likely won’t be in place until spring 2011.

“Because of increasing problems with landfill space and costs, the Council has a responsibility to address this issue now,” Mayor Alan McGraw said. “But we need to get the details right, and at the right price for our customers.”

The proposal initially considered by the City Council, which would replace the current residential trash pickup program, would feature:

  • Once a week garbage pickup, with an 96-gallon trash container provided
  • Every other week recycling pickup, with a 96-gallon recycling container provided
  • Cost of the service was estimated to be approximately $16.71 per month

Currently, residents receive twice-weekly garbage pickup for $13.95 per month (no container provided) and can access drop-off recycling services at the City’s Recycling Center on Deepwood Drive. Participants in the current subscription recycling program offered by Round Rock Refuse pay $4 a month and are provided with an 18-gallon container.

An effective solid waste program will reduce the amount of unnecessary material going into landfills, and save significant wear and tear on City streets as garbage trucks will make fewer trips.

The City Council discussed curbside recycling options at its retreat in February. The once a week garbage pickup and every other week recycling, with containers provided, is the same as recently implemented programs in Cedar Park and Pflugerville.

The primary concerns we have heard from citizens regarding the proposal are:

  • Increasing the base cost of trash pickup while decreasing the number of times trash is picked up per week
  • Losing the choice whether to recycle
  • Storing two 96-gallon containers in their garages will be difficult

Other options considered by the City Council are: weekly garbage and weekly recycling pickup with containers provided ($17.50 per month); weekly garbage and every other week recycling without a trash container provided and a 96-gallon recycling container provided ($15.34 per month); weekly garbage and weekly recycling without a trash container provided and a 60-gallon recycling container provided ($15.78 per month).

In the City’s 2008 customer service survey, we asked respondents a series of questions on curbside recycling. The highest level of agreement was to the question, “What’s most important is that the city ensures the best service at the best price,” with 89 percent agreeing, and 8 percent disagreeing.

The survey also asked respondents if they supported the City implementing a curbside recycling program for all city residents and 81 percent said they did; 71 percent agreed that what’s important is keeping service the way it is.

For those residents who want to set out more than the 96-gallon garbage container, Round Rock Refuse General Manager Ralph Rocco told the City Council in February that additional items/trash will be picked up as well.

“If they set it out on the curb, we’ll pick it up,” Rocco told the City Council. “For the vast majority of people, the 96-gallon container should be enough, but we will pick up additional containers if folks set them out. If you haven’t been recycling, you’ll be surprised at how much it will reduce the waste going into your regular trash.”

The City conducted a pilot program of the service last year, and 39 of the 43 participants said the 96-gallon container was sufficient for weekly garbage disposal needs. Forty-one of the 43 participants said they would like to see the service implemented full-time.

Participants in the pilot program included City Councilmembers, neighborhood association leaders, interested citizens and City staff members.

Rocco said if people do not want to participate in the curbside recycling service, Round Rock Refuse will simply pick up the recycling containers. However, their monthly charge will remain the same.


MrJoshua said:

I was excited to see talk of a recycling program in the works. Reguardless, with the cost of rising landfill costs, it sounds like there's still going to be increased prices in garbage pickup. May as well increase it for a good cause instead of just land costs.

I realize there are some people who could care less where their trash ends up, but there are a huge chunk of us who do care, & an extra $3 a month is a small price to pay for some peace of mind. Especially considering they'll be giving us trash bins.

I say take a poll in the water/trash bill next month. That way people can't blame city council, only their fellow citizens. I don't think we need trash picked up twice a week anyway. Where I lived, it was once a week all my life, with 4 kids, & we never had a problem.

# May 29, 2010 7:16 PM

groovymom said:

I am glad a better recycling program is being considered.  96 gal. cans are way too big and we do not have space for them.  I was lucky to participate in the pilot project and never filled the cans that were provided with trash or recyclables.  Since we recycle we typically put out one 13-gal. trash bag.  Sometimes more or a few cans depending on yard work and household cleaning.  We currently recycle and the 18 gal. is usually overflowing.  65 gal. cans should be more than adequate for residents.  Not so cumbersome to store. PLEASE CONSIDER SMALLER CANS.  Thank you :)

# May 30, 2010 1:05 PM

Jennifer said:

My husband and I are both excited to hear that this may be a possibility for Round Rock. We LOVE the trash/recycling program that Austin has (we even take most of our recycling into Austin and dump it in one of our relative's cans), and we often wish we had something like it here in Round Rock. We would definitely pay an extra $3 for something like what Austin has!

We live in a neighborhood that produces a lot of trash. We ourselves only started routine recycling a few years ago, and since then, we've never needed to put out our garbage more than once a week. Sometimes we skip a week entirely. I would like to think that a program like this would encourage all our neighbors to start recycling as well.

# May 31, 2010 9:06 PM

dulcenota said:

The current proposal for a recycling service is not really a proposal for a new recycling service.  Instead, it is a proposed change from twice a week to once a week trash service with an increased fee for the reduced service.

I'd like to ask the City Council to consider another option if it is necessary to restructure the current trash service.  I LOVE having twice a week trash service in Round Rock and I would very much like to see twice a week trash service continued. I previously lived in an area with once a week trash service and disliked it intensely.  

With once a week service, failure to put your trash out for a weekly collection results in a homeowner having to store smelly trash for a two week period.  In addition, the 96 gallon trash cans are difficult to store and are an eyesore littering the street after collection and before homeowners return home from work to retrieve them from curbside.

I am willing to pay an additional fee for twice a week service if necessary to make it cost effective for the city.  I would greatly appreciate it if the City Council would implement an option for retaining twice a week trash service.

# June 1, 2010 9:33 PM

AAGAAG said:

I am absolutely surprised that City Council does not list as major concern a removal of twice a week service. This is a major topic of proposal.

I am pretty sure that if once a week service will be implemented, after first single hot summer month majority people will understand which level of nightmare of bad smells we will have. And majority who worry now about $3/month now will be ready to pay $23 extra/month to return nice service which we have now.

I suggest to everybody to do simple experiment - to leave now (June) couple empty milk containers, and leftovers of meat packages for one week in garage, even in closed container and see what happen. You also should open it every day like to put extra garbage. Or used pets' litter...

After this we will worry not about less garbage trucks on a roads, but on how smelly our lovely Round Rock will be... Council members should also try this experiment first in their houses.

And person who is worrying about one missed week in case of once a week service is absolutely right! This will be bad.

I may be will find place for two 96 gallon containers in my garage (still thinking on why nobody thinks about my inconvenience). But if it will create bad smell in my house in garage with my wife's asthma, I must put these containers permanently outside of garage, and let HOA blames decision makers in City Council.

# June 5, 2010 4:37 PM

JennySueL said:

I agree with dulcenota that the current proposal for a recycling service is basically a proposal to reduce our garbage service level while increasing our fee for that service.  

From what Mr. Rocco has stated in the article above, Round Rock Refuse will continue to pick up whatever I put on the curb, so there really is no incentive for me to recycle.  If recycling reduced my costs for garbage service, I might consider going to the trouble of cleaning out & storing recyclables.  Under the current system, recycling costs me more money, so I don't do it.

I currently have my own 96 gallon container which I must keep in my garage due to neighborhood covenant restrictions.  I do not have room to store an additional 96 gallon container, so if the city or Round Rock Refuse were to provide two more of these containers I would simply send them back.

I do not subscribe to the environmentalist "green" mentality, so if the city wants to encourage me to recycle, they need to provide me with incentive to do so.  A "pay-as-you-throw" type of garbage/recycling program would provide adequate incentive, I think. If my garbage service fee level was determined by the amount of garbage I put out on the curb each week then I would have incentive to reduce the amount of garbage I produce by recycling.

So in short, I would like the city to keep our twice a week garbage pickup, I don't want to store garbage/recycling for two weeks at a time, but I would be willing to recycle if it saved me money.  Thank you for your consideration.

# June 6, 2010 1:17 PM

mcewen said:

I have lived in Round Rock for 20 years. I do not want to use the 96 gal. container, far less two of them. They  are too large for the garage and anyhow I don't have that much garbage. I do my own recycling at the Recycle Center as I do not want to pay the extra fee for the green bin. I don't think most households would ever fill up the 96 gal bin for recycling! It should be a choice and a cost only if you want to do the recycle. Would just going to once a week not save enough money and then leave everything the way it is? And save the money you would spend on those way too huge cans! If we have extra garbage, we can use extra normal cans for any yard waste, etc.

# June 14, 2010 6:10 PM

jasonsmedia said:

My wife and I are also very happy to hear about a more serious recycling plan. As mentioned before, I'm sure there are some who may not be as inclined, but to be responsible stewards of our community sometimes we have to make a change. This has minimal impact on us as individuals and families, but can greatly benefit our environment and what we leave for future generations.  It's worth it. Lastly, I agree with the previous comment also...the larger 96 gallon containers are not necessary.  Go for 65.

# June 19, 2010 7:16 AM

Nola said:

I too, favor the twice a week trash pick up.  I am retired and have no idea where I'd put two, of the proposed, trash cans much less how I'd get thtem to the street, if they were full.

I am supportive of recycling and with a good ad campaign, feel that if that is a condition of the pick up service, we'd all do it.

It seems to me that if cities are recycling now knowing that it is a loosing protisition that there has to be some business opportunities available. Some creative thought needs to be appliled.

# June 25, 2010 9:09 AM

CristenP said:

The recycling container is propsed to be optional.  The $3 increase would likely happen anyway with changes in our community and taxes.  Never mind that we are doing something healthy for our earth, if people are really recycling all the items they should be, their trash consumption will go down and they will not need a twice a week pick up.  Recycling is not just cans.  It is cardboard boxes, all plastics, all junk mail and magazines.  As soon as I started taking my recycleables to the Center weekly, my "other trash" build-up reduced significantly.  I do not put out my trash more than once a week now. and I have smaller can than a 96-gallon.  

The 96 gal cans are a bit cumbersome, I understand.  But many communities have this in place and seem to manage storage of the cans.  They have rollers on the bottom and are not heavy if they are not full.  The little 18 gal recycle bins now are way too small, I see them overloaded on my neighbor's curb and wish I could pick up the extra when I'm headed to the Center.  

Also, I see people with even WORSE looking trash bins, which are too small and way too overloaded (with many recycleable items, by the way) sitting out on out on our curbs as early as Friday for a Monday pick-up.  Talk about unattractive.  A larger can for trash and/or recycleables would hopefully keep the trash itself hidden, thereby a better looking street.

# June 25, 2010 10:25 AM

lekdoglover said:

I wholeheartedly support a curbside recycling service. I agree with many others that a 96-gallon recycling container is not necessary for the vast majority of households. I think a 65 gallon container would be perfect. One request I have is for Round Rock Refuse to start accepting more types of recyclable materials at the curb. For example, they currently do not accept glass, corrugated cardboard, or paperboard. I understand they have their reasons for not accepting glass, but until I moved to Round Rock I had never seen a recycling program that didn't take glass. I also don't understand why they won't take cardboard - it is one of the easiest materials to recycle.

I agree with some others that the $3 fee will probably occur even without a recycling service, due to increased costs. I am fine with going to once per week trash pickup - that's what I had all my life until I moved to Round Rock and I've never had a problem with excessively smelly garbage - trash starts smelling bad in 24 hours in the Texas heat, so smelly trash is just an unfortunate aspect of life. If people are concerned about missing the one trash day, they should make sure they pay attention and don't forget - this is not rocket science, and we can all sacrifice a little to gain a lot.

I also think a "pay as you throw" option is a great idea. Nothing like a monetary incentive to get people to do the right thing.

# June 26, 2010 5:39 PM

texan4ut said:

I want the recycling program to remain voluntary. Most of my recycling goes to my church recycle program. I don't want two 96 gallon containers. I live by my self and I rarely fill a 40 gallon trash can in two weeks. Instead of adding costs in this economy how about keep the programs as it is with one change, once a week trash collection. Then money saved from once a week collection can offset future land fill increases without passing it on to the tax payers.

# June 28, 2010 10:18 AM

cwtrr said:

once a week pickup is ok by my household

96gl containers way too big, let alone 2.

we put out 1 hefty size bag a week.

would have to store containers in the side yard.

hope the neighbors don't mind.

there are many small houses in RR, many

people would leave the containers at the curb for long periods and store them in front of their garage.

- we currently recycle and take the equivalent of a 96gl container to the center about every 8 weeks.

We have 2 adults in our household, so yes I understand bigger families will have bigger needs.

- if recycling saves money, why do rates go up?

- Austin is currently losing $2.6 Million on their recycling contract. Do not get us into a mess like that.

# June 29, 2010 7:58 AM

ReneeMartin said:

I like the idea of the once/week pick up.  We rarely put trash out twice a week.  This is because we recycle a lot, so the recycling container is definitely too small for our needs.  I think if people used the recycling bin, they wouldn't feel the need for twice/week trash pick up.

I don't think the cost increase is enough to worry about, but if there is a pay-as-you-throw option that could work, it would probably get more people on board.

I agree that we probably don't need more than a 65 gallon trash can for either the trash or the recycling.

I would also like to see us have the ability to recycle cardboard and glass.

# June 29, 2010 10:57 AM

Mrs. Green said:

Once a week trash pickup is plenty.  As a family of three we've always recycled (even taking our glass and our neighbors' glass - which Round Rock does not recycle - to Ecology in Action in Austin.)

Two 96 gallon containers should fit easily into most garages. A quick look up and down the neighborhood streets of Round Rock will show you the cars are not in there.

Also, how are we behind Pflugerville in this?  Round Rock is "supposed" to be progessive.

# July 6, 2010 7:59 AM

JD Horn said:

My first blog and it is definitely a complaint.  My wife and I are NOT in favor of decreasing service for more money.  My electric bill has now gone up for less service and now the city is trying to do it to my garbage collection.  I love the way it is collected and am proud of the city for the way it has been handled but if the changes are done as proposed, I will make sure we vote against whoever votes for the changes and tell as many people as possible why their bill went up and services were decreased. If you have to raise our bills, raise them but DO NOT decrease our garbage collection.  I pay to recycle and I'll pay for garbage pick up.   My garage is already full with a car in it and I don't want bigger containers, the smell factor, etc.  My neighborhood looks good with the trash gone and making it once a week will only make it worse and bring more pests in.  More money is collected every year in taxes, deal with it!  

# July 16, 2010 2:57 PM

Wingtech2 said:

I do not agree with the proposal to reduce service and charge more for it.  If the city wants to reduce the number of times they pick up trash, that is fine with me, but we shouldn't have to pay more for it.

I like the idea of being compensated for recycling.  Sanipac, in Eugene Oregon, gives its customers a recycling credit when they recycle.  They collect both trash and recycling.

What I would like to see is the ability to recycle glass.  I don't like throwing it away but I don't use enough to justify driving into Austin to recycle it.

# August 6, 2010 4:50 PM

mscklm said:

Recycling is the issue, Not Trash Cans I would appreciate If you would not vote on Giving us a new 96 gallon trash can. When I moved to Round Rock I went to Lowes and bought a 96 gallon trash can for service. I Do NOT Want another 96 gallon Trash Can.

I Do Need a 96 Gallon Recycling Container provided along with Recycling service for Round Rock. I do not want my utility bill raised to pay for NEW TRASH CANS. People in Round Rock already own and are currently using Trash cans for Service. Why get new ones. I will pay more on a utility bill for recycling of a 96 gallon container if provided. GIVE US Reclycling Bins and Service Only. Remember that is the issue at hand. If you want to pick up Trash once a week and pick up Recycling bins once a week so be it. That will work out for both financial reasons and the well being of our planet. Do not make me pay more for another Trash can.

# August 24, 2010 1:15 PM

Decision Points said:

The Round Rock City Council voted unanimously Thursday, Aug. 26, to implement a new garbage and recycling

# August 27, 2010 1:55 PM

dennisl59 said:

$2.96 more per month with 1 less pickup a week. And I do my own recycling @ deepwood once a month. So why is this a 'good deal' for the taxpayers? Answer: It isn't, just 'drip drip drip' of money out of our pockets by Round Rock.

# December 12, 2010 12:35 PM

RecycleHero said:

Recycling can be economical if collection is done right, producers should have the responsibility for the end life of their products but they dont so government collection is necessary to stop filling up the landfills.

# May 14, 2013 1:14 PM
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