Recycling in Naperville will become a bit tidier in 2014. Officials also are confident it will be done in greater volumes.
The city soon will require residents who separate their paper, metal, glass and plastic from the rest of their trash to use rolling containers to contain the materials, and help underwrite the vessels’ cost through a temporary surcharge or onetime payment.
City Council members Tuesday night voted unanimously to implement the change, which will render obsolete the open rectangular bins now used to collect the items to be left at the curb. Although staff members believe most people will want to use the 95-gallon version, residents in small households who generate less refuse will have a choice of two smaller sizes.
Public Works Director Dick Dublinski said a primary reason for making the change is the city’s goal of increasing from 30 percent to 40 percent the community’s diversion rate, a term used for the segment of residents’ trash that isn’t taken to landfills.
Currently, Naperville lags behind neighboring communities’ diversion rates by 56 percent, Dublinski said. City surveys, he said, have established that there is substantial interest in doing more recycling.
“We believe Naperville should be at the forefront of this problem,” he said, noting that entering an agreement to buy the carts could lock in the current $2.43 monthly recycling fee, one of the area’s lowest, until 2024. “Our citizens want a recycling cart program.”
Not all do, however. Townhome dweller Reindert Smit, describing himself as an avid recycler for many years, is put off by the “monstrous” size of the rolling flip-top bins. He now keeps his recycling bin tucked under a shelf in his garage, where it fits fine. Requiring him to use, and help pay for, a rolling cart is “the silliest thing I’ve heard of,” he said.
Officials have yet to finalize the financing arrangements for the carts, which the city will purchase at an estimated $50 to $55 apiece. They will consider whether to add what is expected to be a $4 upcharge per month for a year to the bills of those who opt for the carts, or offer the additional option of offsetting the cost by paying the participants’ share up front.
Along with supporting the goal of expanding the diversion rate, the plan was pitched as a way to prevent Resource Management, the contracted hauler, from increasing the monthly fee in 2016.
Dublinski and his staff backed off on their original proposal to make participation in the cart program mandatory. It’s optional for residents to purchase the rolling carts now used for regular trash, although a majority have done so.
“We learned that the ‘mandatory’ word is very, very sensitive, and I get it,” he said. “By ‘mandatory,’ staff means that if residents choose to recycle, they will need to get a 95- or a 65-gallon cart. We understand that one size doesn’t fit all (but) we are confident that 80 percent of the people who recycle in Naperville will choose this cart.”
Those who don’t like the program as it is, he said, could share a cart with neighbors, or drop off their materials at the city’s Public Works campus on specified days. Or they can stop recycling.
Several council said that even a 65-gallon cart, which holds the equivalent of four tall kitchen garbage bags’ worth of materials, might be too big for very small households. Paul Hinterlong noted that two-thirds of the residents in District 203 have no children.
“They’re not going to have as many recyclables as young families do,” said Hinterlong, one of those who pressed successfully for a 32-gallon alternative. “There definitely need to be some options here, just like we did with the (garbage) carts. People either want a cart or they don’t.”
While he said the larger bins would encourage more recycling, Dublinski acquiesced to the officials’ request.
Councilwoman Judith Brodhead suggested that residents may not realize how much of their refuse can be kept out of landfills.
“There has to be, I would think, a lot of education as we try to get that trash-to-recycling ratio to shift,” she said.
Brodhead recently visited Seattle, where a progressive program for curbside collection of recyclables and food waste has the effect of making residents’ regular garbage containers quite small. Resource Management Senior Vice President Greg Maxwell said food scrap composting is the next frontier in the handling of waste.
Envisioning success in shifting Naperville’s diversion rate toward more participation in recycling through the cart initiative, Councilman Doug Krause asked whether the color-coded lids on the containers could be swapped, for those who come to find their small recycling vessels aren’t large enough.
“I’m sure we’ll figure a way to do it,” Dublinski said. “That would be great.”