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Stott: Opportunities abound for waste contract

The city of DeKalb is coming to the end of its garbage collection contract with Waste Management.

It is time for aldermen to consider the current contract and whether changes are needed.

This is an important decision: The contract will serve the city for years and has the potential to improve the service to the community.

DeKalb has the chance to re-evaluate the needs of its citizens and to award a big contract to a deserving firm. It is an opportunity to assess how Waste Management has served the city and identify ways it can be served better, as well as priorities that may have changed since the current contract was implemented.

The city also has the opportunity to assess the most sustainable options for trash collection and make a conscious decision to do what is best for the environment.

Decision-makers have a responsibility now not just to serve the public but also choose options that are sustainable. As we learn more about the negative effects of irresponsible waste disposal, contracts should be created with priorities that include sustainability along with value and service.

DeKalb Public Works Director T. J. Moore acknowledged Monday night at the City Council meeting that refuse management is different than it was in the past, that it includes more than just trash pickup and landfill dumping.

Because refuse management has expanded so much, communities can choose among programs that suit their residents and move in a positive direction for sustainability. There are many options that have been launched experimentally in other communities, their results logged and analyzed.

DeKalb doesn’t have to gamble on the effectiveness of a new contract because there is already a lot of evidence available on program performance.

For example, the city’s current contract allows single-family residences to dispose of as much trash as they want, provided it is in bags or cans and left at the curb.

Switching to a “pay as you go” disposal system would allow residents to pay by the bag, encouraging them to limit the amount they throw away. This method may encourage more recycling in the community.

It is important for residents to encourage a sustainable decision as well. Aldermen who don’t hear from their constituents can’t represent their needs confidently. DeKalb residents should let their preferences be known now while the council puts together a new proposal for waste collection services, instead of after a new contract is signed.

There is nearly a year remaining on the city’s contract with Waste Management. That should be plenty of time for all options to be considered and a thoughtful and progressive decision to be made.

Without consciously including the environment as a stakeholder, DeKalb will have to live out years of another contract before it has another chance to make the city more environmentally friendly.

• Lauren Stott is a Maple Park native and a graduate student at Northern Illinois University in the master of public administration program. She can be reached at lauren_stott@yahoo.com.

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