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Our view: Three key factors for new trash deal

The DeKalb City Council should keep three factors in mind when they formulate a new proposal for city trash collection services: Economy, flexibility and the environment.

The factors are best considered in that order.

In light of the still-shaky economy, with 8 percent unemployment and many people working in lower-paying jobs than they had before the start of the Great Recession, now’s not the time to create a “Cadillac plan” for trash collection. Citizens want a deal that won’t come with a fresh hit to their wallets. We have other things we need to spend our money on, and in many households there’s less of it.

That said, people also don’t want to be forced into a program that applies a one-size-fits-all approach. Some households generate relatively little trash, and for them, perhaps a program where they pay a per-bag fee (either by putting stickers on each bag of trash, or by purchasing special bags from the waste hauler with an added cost tacked on) is the right way to go.

But there has to be an accommodation for the households with several children, maybe a couple of them using disposable diapers. They need an option where they can wheel a 90-gallon toter can to the curb once a week or they’ll be piling a mountain of garbage out every week and attracting nuisance animals.

The environment is an important consideration as well. The evolution in how we as a society dispose of waste is not yet complete. There are new options available since the city’s last waste disposal contract with Waste Management was agreed upon in 2009.

Composting garbage is beginning to emerge as an option. Several communities, from Washington, D.C., to Homer, Alaska, have banned the use of plastic grocery bags in an effort to cut down on waste.

And the DeKalb County Board has approved a still-disputed, 500-acre expansion of Waste Management’s landfill near Cortland.

Public opinion should be sought on residents’ feelings as to how their community can cut down on the amount of trash goes into that landfill.

And as long as the city is looking at ways to cut down on the amount residents throw away, they could also bargain with waste haulers on what it would take to make recycling easier for apartment-dwellers, many of whose landlords choose to forgo recycling service because it adds an extra cost to their bill.

A more convenient recycling drop-off point could be established, for example.

The city’s contract with Waste Management doesn’t expire until Aug. 31, 2013, which should give them plenty of time to craft a proposal that will fit everyone’s needs.

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