ALAMOSA — Alamosa city officials are considering curbside recycling and will be seeking public input on whether or not city customers would be willing to pay extra for the service.
City Public Works Director Pat Steenburg and City Manager Heather Brooks discussed curbside recycling options and costs with city councilors during a work session this week.
Depending on how long the city took to recoup its initial investment in the additional containers and equipment required for curbside recycling, plus the extra operational expenses, each residential customer of the city would be looking at an additional $9-12 per month for the service. This would not be a voluntary service like the green waste is, Steenburg explained. For it to work, everyone would have to be included, he said.
Brooks recommended that if the council was interested in pursuing this, the city should conduct a survey of residential customers through utility bills.
“We’ve got people who are passionate about recycling and they can afford to pay this,” she said, “and people who don’t care about recycling or don’t feel they can afford it.”
Different “toters” from the receptacles used for trash collection would be used, with one toter for “single stream” recycling, meaning folks would place all of their recycled materials (cardboard, plastics, paper etc.) into that container to be picked up by the city crews, plus the possibility of a separate toter for glass. Steenburg said facilities that accept single stream recycled materials do not like to have glass included in the mix because of the safety issues during the sorting process.
If the city pursued the full curbside recycling program, with glass in a separate container, the city would have to buy a glass toter and single stream toter for each of its 2,450 residential customers. Each toter costs just over $56, which means the total cost for one toter per household would be about $138,000, or twice that if each household has a separate container for glass.
“There’s a lot of communities that don’t take glass,” Brooks said.
In addition to the costs for toters, the city would need to build a transfer station, a cost Steenburg estimated at about $700,000. Materials would be stored there before being transported to facilities that would accept them in Santa Fe or Colorado Springs.
Steenburg said the recyclable materials would not be picked up in the same trucks as the current trash trucks, so the city would be looking at additional equipment. This would include equipment for the transfer station estimated at $150,000; a dual stream (one for glass, one for other materials) side load garbage truck estimated at $280,000; and a transfer vehicle (semi) estimated at $175,000. Steenburg also estimated the cost of a bigger glass crusher at $150,000.
If the city includes glass in the equation, it is looking at an initial investment of $1.7 million to buy the toters and equipment and to build the transfer station, Steenburg explained.
If the city did not include glass in the curbside recycling program, it could eliminate $138,00 cost for toters for the glass and about $150,000 for a larger glass crusher, Steenburg said.
To recoup the capital investment costs alone, the city would have to charge an additional $3-6 per month per residential customer. If the city went with a 10-year payback time period to recoup its capital investment costs, it would need to charge customers $6 more per month’ if 15-year payback, $4 a month; and if 20-year payback, $3 a month.
Over time that monthly charge would diminish to $5, $3 and $2 a month, respectively.
“That’s just the capital,” Steenburg said.
Add to that the additional operating costs, Steenburg added. He estimated the city might have 900 tons per year of recycled materials from its residential customers. The city would have just under 10,000 loaded miles of hauling each year at $4 per loaded mile or $39,760 annually just to haul the materials. Tipping fees would add another estimated $22,500, Steenburg explained.
“When you move to single stream set up, they don’t pay you for your materials. It’s like a landfill. You pay them to take it,” Steenburg said. “There’s no revenue associated with it.”
A few weeks a year there might be some revenue, but most of the time there is not, he added.
Steenburg said the city would have to hire another 1.5 employees, which he estimated would add $62,250 to the annual operating costs.
“It will be another trash route, and we are maxed right now,” he said.
Steenburg also figured in some miscellaneous expense at $50,000 annually.
He said the first year operating costs would likely be about $175,000.
To cover the operating costs alone, city residential customers would be looking at just over $6 additional per month, according to Steenburg.
Combining the costs for operating and capital investment, the monthly increase for residential customers for curbside recycling would be $12 per month, if the city tried to recoup its costs in 10 years, $10 per month to recoup the costs in 15 years and $9 to recoup the costs in 20 years.
Steenburg has not performed an analysis of how much curbside recycling might save in landfill and regular trash collection costs, but he said he would continue gathering information on the subject.
Caption: Rickey Recycling Center/Courier photo by Ruth Heide