Las Vegas Sun

July 24, 2016

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Convenience, affordability at odds in county recycling debate

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Las Vegas Sun File

Recyclables are sorted at the Republic Services recycling facility. The company is testing a once-a-week trash and recycling pickup program in a Henderson ward.

COST OF NEW PROGRAM

Republic Services says it would cost $20 million in mechanized trucks and $10 million for new bins, to implement a countywide policy of picking up recyclables in one bin instead of three. Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani argues that the company would save millions of dollars a year by paying out less in workers’ compensation as a result of the new trucks.

Beyond the Sun

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani wants the Las Vegas Valley’s trash hauler to make recycling more convenient without scaling back its twice-a-week garbage collection schedule.

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Chris Giunchigliani

Giunchigliani is proposing that Republic Services begin offering single-stream recycling, which allows customers to put all their recyclables in one bin, as soon as March. It’s an option that has been tested in various pilot programs throughout the county for nearly two years.

“The time to study this is over,” she said Monday.

Republic Services has resisted the change, saying it would be too costly because it requires the purchase of new trucks. To proceed and defray the cost, however, the company proposes cutting back to once-a-week garbage collection, which it says is working well in pilot programs.

Bob Coyle, Republic Services vice president of government relations, said if Giunchigliani’s plan is approved, Clark County residents will pay higher trash fees.

The debate will come to a head today as Giunchigliani tries to persuade fellow commissioners to amend Republic Services’ contract to maintain its twice-a-week trash pickup while replacing the red (plastic and metal), white (paper) and blue (glass) recycling bins used by most homes in unincorporated Clark County, with a single recycling bin. She also wants Republic and the county to talk about creating a “recycle bank” that provides recycle incentives in the form of credits that can be spent at local businesses.

Some commissioners appeared reluctant Monday to join Giunchigliani’s call for change.

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Tom Collins

“I think her environmental exuberance is getting in the way of making these changes through the right process,” Commissioner Tom Collins said.

Collins added that he recycles, although a bit unconventionally given that he lives near Logandale. “If I have biodegradables, I just throw them in the yard and let the chickens or the bugs get at it.”

The problem with Giunchigliani’s plan, he said, is that he doesn’t think the company has made enough money to cover the cost of new trucks needed for single-stream recycling — trucks with pneumatic arms to lift large bins into their beds. Republic Services, he noted, keeps getting hit with more expenses to recap and monitor Sunrise Landfill, which tore open during a torrential downpour in 1998. This year, Republic began a $20 million recapping project on the 440-acre landfill scheduled for completion in 2012.

“Don’t just come out and say, ‘I want you to start doing this,’ ” Collins added. “Let’s look at what makes the most sense, is logical and practical and better for our service.”

Commissioner Steve Sisolak doesn’t recycle, but would if all he had to do is toss his recyclables in a single bin. Even so, he doesn’t appear ready to support Giunchigliani’s plan to amend Republic’s contract.

Like Collins, Sisolak cites the cost for the company. Republic estimates the cost of buying new trucks at $20 million. Add to that the $10 million cost of new recycling bins for the county’s 210,000 households.

“Maybe I could go for it if (the cost) was spread out over time,” Sisolak said.

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Kathleen Boutin

He pointed to an idea being tested in Henderson. About two weeks ago, Councilwoman Kathleen Boutin’s ward went to once-a-week garbage and once-a-week recycling pickup. In addition, Republic buys for the homeowner both the recycling bin and trash bin. In just two weeks, Boutin said, most of her constituents seem happy with the change.

“I hear two things,” Boutin said. “ ‘I never recycled before, and I feel good about it now, and you make it so easy.’ And ‘I’ve always recycled, but I love this, and I’d never go back to the old system.’ ”

Giunchigliani said Henderson residents view things differently when the summer heat arrives and starts cooking trash that is only picked up once a week. “They don’t have the smell right now.”

She added that if the county changed trash pickup to once a week and used the bins that Republic would purchase, “unlimited trash pickup” would disappear.

“As it is now, if you have 10 bags of trash, they have to pick it up,” she said. “If we used their bins, they’d only pick up what would fit in those bins.”

But Coyle said if the county went to once-a-week trash pickup, the schedule would allow homeowners to put out bulk items every other week. “So if you have the fronds from 20 palm trees piled up, you’d put them out and we’d pick them up,” he said.

Coyle added that Republic is interested in moving to automated trash pickers, but not as rapidly as Giunchigliani would like.

The company recognizes its workers are injured to the tune of almost $3 million in worker compensation costs each year. In Anaheim, Calif., with a similar number of households, its workers’ compensation bill is only about $300,000, largely because the trucks are automated.

The millions in potential savings here would help defray the cost of purchasing trash bins for households in unincorporated Clark County, he said.

Giunchigliani said she sees her amendment as a compromise because she is no longer asking for weekly recycling pickup.

“This can work, I just hope they give it a chance,” she said.

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