collection: Variable Rates Boosts City's Recycling

Faced with weak state leadership, no solid waste utility and a strong local interest in recycling, the city of Fort Collins, Colo., decided on a one-two punch: providing automatic recycling services for residents, with a pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) collection system.

Here's how they did it: Fort Collins, inspired by neighboring Loveland's (Colo.) award-winning, municipally-operated solid waste programs (see World Wastes, December 1996, pg. 37), began a recycling outreach program and city-sponsored drop-off site in 1987.

By 1992, Larimer County - located mid-way between Fort Collins and Loveland - had built a materials recovery facility, and Fort Collins required private haulers to provide curbside recycling service on demand. However, participation was low since most companies charged for the service. Disappointed in the modest gains that were being made, the city council adopted new goals in 1994:

* reduce the total waste stream by 20 percent by the year 2000, despite growth;

* reduce landfilled waste by 20 percent; and

* increase participation in curbside recycling by 80 to 90 percent.

To reach these goals, in October 1995, the city required haulers to provide curbside recycling for all single family and duplex residences at no extra charge (recycling costs were absorbed into regular trash bills). By January 1996, the city created a PAYT - or variable rates - system for collection.

Within six months, curbside recycling participation had jumped to 79 percent, which was up from 53.5 percent the previous year.

The city defined a trash unit as 33 gallons or less, and customers would be charged the same for collecting additional containers of the same size. Although the city originally wanted the haulers to charge based on volume, they allowed them to charge a flat monthly fee to recover their fixed costs.

The flat fee, however could not exceed 50 percent of the total customer cost so that the monetary incentive of charging variable rates was not lost (for instance, charging a $10 monthly flat fee and only a nickel for each bag or can).

The city was concerned with potential negative reactions to PAYT because its citizens might:

* want to discard unlimited amounts of trash;

* fail to understand or support the public policy objectives; or

* find using prepaid bags, tags, labels inconvenient.

As it turned out, residents supported increased recycling and waste reduction, and paying for the landfill space they used.

However, they didn't want to use prepaid plastic bags, tags or labels and preferred using their own trash cans. As a result, the haulers, with city approval, recorded the numbers of bags or cans on route (except for one company that already used prepaid bags).

The city plans to audit the haulers' billing system to determine if the bills accurately reflect use. If the city finds that haulers are failing to charge for extra trash bags or to credit customers who have been waste reducers (since bills go out in advance), they could require them to switch to pre-paid bags or labels.

For some people, PAYT was simple, but others may need more time to accept the concept. Fort Collins, however, has learned from its experience. In retrospect, city staff should have spent more time preparing for the change, with more emphasis on educating the public and anticipating their questions. Staff also should have worked more closely with private haulers to "work out the bugs" in their billing.

The city feels that PAYT is responsible for achieving its recycling and participation goals. For example Fort Collins residents are generating less solid waste, which may be attributed to local policies and regulations.

Making curbside recycling a part of trash collection was vital for successfully implementing PAYT in Fort Collins. Getting recycling "for free" reinforces the message that customers only pay for what they throw into the landfill.

People quickly learned that they could divert significant portions of their household waste stream. For instance, a growing number of citizens have begun backyard composting, with help from a volunteer Master Composters program and yearly truckload sales of plastic compost bins. Likewise, community leaf drop-offs are gaining popularity: This fall, more than 2,000 loads of leaves were collected for composting.

Given the opportunity, most citizens will recycle and reduce waste once they see savings on their trash bills. Also, this type of system increases citizens' awareness of market limitations, and may help increase the recycling of even low-value materials. This awareness, hopefully, will help fuel consumer demand for greater recycling opportunities and less waste in manufacturing.

For more information, contact: Fort Collins Natural Resources Department, P.O. Box 580, Fort Collins, Co. 80522-0580. (970) 221-6265. Fax: (970) 224-6177.

Freightliner Unveils Truck Division Portland, Ore. - With negotiations complete and manufacturing, marketing and distribution plans in place, Freightliner Corp., Portland, Ore., finally has unveiled the name of its new Ford Heavy Trucks acquisition: Sterling Truck Corp.

The announcement culminated a months-long search for a name out of many possibilities. Among the requirements, it had to obtain international clearance and accommodate both corporate and product identification.

Soon, Freightliner's acquired line of heavy trucks products, including previous Cargo and Louisville/Aeromax (HN80), will carry the new Sterling nameplate, which will mark the "independent" paths the two companies will take, says Freightliner President and CEO James Hebe.

Sterling Truck Corp.'s headquarters will be located in Willoughby, Ohio, near Cleveland.

For more information, contact: Jim McNamara, Sterling Truck Corp., 4420 Sherwin Rd., Willoughby, Ohio 44094. (440) 269-5544.

1 - D. Virtually every car we scrap is stripped of useable parts, crushed and shredded to recover recyclable materials. In fact, enough steel was recycled from cars in 1995 to build 151 Golden Gate bridges.

2 - D. And, it takes just one gallon of improperly disposed of oil to contaminate one year's water supply for 50 people.

3 - B. More than 18 billion steel cans were recycled last year. The result? Besides saving 2,500 pounds of iron ore; 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone for each ton of steel recycled, 1.6 million tons of steel cans were diverted from the landfill.

4 - D. Call you local recycling office to find out about these and other recycling options.

5 - B and D. Every year grass clippings make up about 17 percent of all residential solid waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, by grasscycling and/or composting landfill diversion is increased and cities and counties may reach mandated diversion goals faster.

Questions courtesy of the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) and the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI).

For more information, contact: SRI, 680 Andersen Drive, Foster Plaza 10, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15220-2700. (800) 876-7174. Fax: (412) 922-3213. Web site: www. Or, NRC, 1727 King St., Ste. 105, Alexandria, Va. 22314. (703) 683-9025. Fax: (703) 683-9026.

Acquisitions General Materials, Raleigh, N.C., has been acquired by Geo Synthetics Inc., a nationwide distributor/installer of geomembranes and geotextiles.

Allied Wastes Industries Inc., Scotts-dale, Ariz., has agreed to purchase a landfill with approximately 230 acres and 9 million cubic yards of capacity from Anderson County, S.C. The landfill's sale is being completed in connection with an amendment to the county's regional solid waste plan which designates the landfill as a regional facility. Separately, Allied entered into waste transfer contracts with the cities of Durham, Rocky Mount and Wilson, N.C. The municipal contracts call for the transfer and disposal of solid waste for up to 20 years.