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October 9, 2015

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County to take another look at changes to promote residential recycling


Recycling bins are seen on a curb in Anthem on Tuesday, July 26, 2011.

Clark County commissioners agree they’d like to see more recycling in the unincorporated parts of the county. With only about 3 percent of recyclable materials from residents in those areas currently finding their way into the red, white and blue bins, there’s lots of room for improvement.

What commissioners can’t agree on is how to boost residential recycling, which has been the subject of numerous reviews, studies and committees over the past eight years.

Over the next several weeks, the recycling debate will be back on the agenda for commissioners, who will consider an option that they’ve passed on before — single-stream recycling.

According to Republic Services, the county’s trash franchisee, single-stream recycling programs in Henderson and North Las Vegas have led to sixfold increases in recycling rates, from the low single digits to around 25 percent. Las Vegas has not switched to single-stream recycling, although about 12,500 homes are testing it as part of a pilot program.

The switch from individual bins for glass, paper and cans to one large cart for all recyclables eliminates sorting and makes recycling easier for residents. It would not result in a rate increase, but it does come with a trade-off — fewer days of trash pickup.

Under a single-stream recycling ordinance that will be introduced at today’s commission meeting, trash would be picked up once a week, down from twice weekly, and recycling would be picked up weekly instead of biweekly. The ordinance also would allow for one biweekly pickup of bulky items that don’t fit in trash carts.

Any savings resulting from the switch to single-stream recycling would be reinvested in Republic Services' fleet, which needs $20 million to upgrade to trucks capable of lifting the single-stream cart, said Bob Coyle, the company’s vice president of government affairs. An additional $10 million would be spent on new trash and recycling carts, which would be provided to residents free of charge, he said.

Public hearings for the ordinance, which would require Republic to have the program going throughout the county by 2017, likely will be at the Feb. 5 commission meeting, at which time commissioners could take action on the plan.

Commissioner Tom Collins said he planned to support the recycling ordinance and was hopeful it would be approved this time.

“I used to be more concerned about the loss of the other trash pickup, but as I’ve looked at the progress they’ve made with the containers and with the pickup system, it means less noise, less trips,” Collins said. “We’re going to have more efficient pickup and sorting, and it will increase our recycling rates.”

Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who is introducing the ordinance, said it’s time for the county to take action to address “abysmal” recycling rates in the area.

“Some of this stuff has been lingering before the commission for years. We’ve had study committees. We’ve had work groups,” said Sisolak, who has used the single-stream recycling carts and thinks they would benefit residents. “At some point, to be fair to the company and the citizens, I think you just need to take action. We need to introduce the ordinance and vote on it one way or the other.”

The strongest opposition on the board to the single-stream recycling ordinance likely will come from Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who said she supports efforts to expand recycling in the county but opposes losing a day of trash pickup.

“I absolutely don’t agree, and our constituents tend to not agree with losing something that we’re guaranteed under the franchise agreement,” Giunchigliani said of the twice-weekly trash pickups Republic is now required to offer county residents. “You don’t get to amend the franchise agreement to reduce services.”

Giunchigliani said she wants to see Republic prove its case with facts and figures that the single-stream program increased recycling participation.

“Nobody has proved to me that there’s actually been recycling. They claim to have numbers, but I’m going to do my analysis and double-check that,” she said. “They haven’t proved the cost savings; they haven’t proved what the benefit to us is.”

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