Published Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 | 3:07 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 | 5:28 p.m.
The Clark County Commission has approved a new single-stream recycling ordinance, bringing big changes in waste pickup for valley residents after years of debate on the issue.
The commission approved the ordinance Tuesday afternoon in a 4-2 vote, with Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Lawrence Weekly opposed. The vote was taken after nearly four hours of back-and-forth among commissioners, members of the public and representatives from Republic Services, the county’s trash service provider. Commissioner Tom Collins left the meeting before the final vote because of a prior commitment.
The single-stream recycling program will do away with the red, white and blue bins used by households in unincorporated areas of the county, replacing them with one cart on wheels that will hold all recyclables, no sorting required.
Recycling will be picked up weekly instead of biweekly, although residential trash pickup will be reduced from twice a week to once a week. The new program also includes one biweekly pickup of bulky items that don’t fit in trash carts.
The switch to single-stream recycling will not result in a rate increase and any savings from the program will be used by Republic Services to upgrade its fleet of trucks, said Bob Coyle, Republic Services vice president for government affairs.
Henderson and North Las Vegas both approved similar programs in recent years, and Las Vegas has several pilot programs running.
Tuesday’s meeting drew a strong public response, with more than 50 people sharing their opinions with the commission. Many opposed to the change were Republic Services drivers who worried the single-stream recycling program would lead to a reduction in their work hours.
Homeowners expressed varying views. Those in favor of single-stream recycling, many of whom participated in the pilot program, said it made recycling easier, reduced the amount of trash they generated and kept waste from blowing out of the bins and down the streets on pickup days.
Others fiercely opposed losing a day of trash pickup, worrying about the stench of hot garbage during the summer and the loss of service without a corresponding decrease in costs.
Although commissioners approved the ordinance changes, they delayed action on a related item that would have amended the county’s franchise agreement with Republic Services. The amended agreement is needed before the program can begin.
Before considering the amendment, Commissioner Larry Brown asked that several studies be conducted, including a survey of customers already receiving single-stream recycling and the impact the program will have on Republic Services’ revenues and expense. He also requested that county staff explore a provision and any associated costs that would allow the commission to revert back to the current waste pickup agreement should the single-stream operation fail to boost recycling.
Once those studies are complete in the next month or two, the commission will vote on amending the franchise agreement, which runs until 2035.
“I think we have a great program here and I think it’s the right thing to do from a public policy standpoint,” Brown said.
During the meeting, Giunchigliani said she still had several questions about the single-stream recycling program and wanted further study before changing the ordinance or the franchise agreements.
Giunchigliani said numbers reported to the Southern Nevada Health District, which monitors solid waste in the county, don’t support that single-stream recycling program increases recycling rates as much as Republic Services claims.
“Could we not get an answer to that before we actually adopt the change? Because I think the change still begs the (question) of what the reason for the ordinance is. The premise is that it’s resulted in a significant increase (in recycling). Not by their numbers,” Giunchigliani said. “What’s the rush? … How about asking people ‘Do you want to give up your two days a week trash?’ Nobody ever asked that question.”
Before starting the hearing on the ordinance, Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak addressed a complaint filed Monday with the District Attorney’s Office alleging an open-meetings violation by the commission.
The complaint, made by local attorney Todd Bice, is based on three affidavits by individuals who said Sisolak specifically told them that six votes in favor of the single stream ordinance had already been secured in advance of Tuesday’s meeting.
On Tuesday, Sisolak denied any violation had taken place and said his statements were conjecture based on previous statements made by other commissioners to the media and during previous public discussions on the topic.