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April 27, 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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  1. This may seem trivial, but I thought I'd pass it along.

    We moved here from California, where the single-bin for recycling was common. Shortly after moving here, my neighborhood was selected for Republic's test of a similar system and I was happy.

    However, after about a year Republic sent me a letter explaining how the grease spots on a pizza box were harming their efforts, and they asked me to cut out those areas before recycling a simple pizza box. Couple that with the fact that the (black) trash bins were picked up early in the day while the (blue) recycle bins sat around until very late in the day. (Republic had promised both bins would be picked up at the same time.)

    The "Pizza Box Caper" turned me off on the recycle program and I haven't done it since.

    I now live in a Vegas neighborhood that is out from under the test program and couldn't be happier.

    As I said, it's trite. However, politically correct recycling of a pizza box that is of value only to Republic is not on my list of priorities.

  2. We have recycled all kinds of cardboard through the current program for years without receiving a letter. When the cardboard goes into the recycling truck it is impossible to know from where it originated. This makes John Crumpley's post suspect.

  3. I live in both Seattle and Las Vegas, Seattle has the single program and it works great with a 54% recycling program. Sure hope we get to this in Vegas.

  4. My neighborhood was part of the original pilot program for single stream recycling. The Republic truck driver told me the recycling tonnage increased three fold within the first month of introduction of single stream.

    I agree with thekube. Your excuse for not recycling is a greasy pizza box and different pick-up times for recycling and trash? Quit whining, put your big boy pants on and do what is right.

  5. Hopefully the city of Vegas will follow this idea. Would love to have this in our area.

    No matter what they do there will always be some that complain. That is the American way these days.

  6. SgtRock is correct, most recycling is not cost effective. It's become more of a feel good government mandate that forces the waste companies to hire more workers, which in turn cost us customers more each month.

    I believe aluminum is one of the few materials to actually have any cost benefits.

  7. I've noticed that here in Henderson, my recycle trash can gets filled with junk from God knows where. Since I'm single, my can is always half empty, and then gets filled up. If I ever get a notice that my trash can had unacceptable waste, I will tell them where to stick it-and it ain't where the sun shines.

  8. People who don't like recycling are just lazy. WHen I lived in NLV, we recycled. We got more of the plastic bins that were needed for certain items, ie more for cans and plastic bottles, less for newspaper, catalogs. Because of the windy days, the "easy to blow away" stuff like the cans and plastic bottles we put into plastic bags to keep them together. Never had a complaint from Republic about that. Any boxes or large cardboard, we had to take the time to break down so they would fit tightly into the bins and not blow away. It's just making a little effort to do this. Because we HAD to recycle when living in CHicago, we already knew no food or food scraps in anything such as the "pizza box". That did go into the regular trash if it was too greasy or had too much food left on it.

    What I think is more of a problem is that apartment complexes, both in Las Vegas and even where I live now, do not require recylcing. But again, you are dealing with people who could care less about recycling and won't bother to separate their garbage no matter how easy it is for them to do it. I've seen people throw into the dumpsters computer monitors, electronic devices - all of which are illegal to dump in the trash. Anywhere. Oh...and furniture!! But again - even if it was made easy for people to recycle, they won't do it because of laziness and being stupid.