Trash talk: Climate change has Ann Arbor officials exploring reduced garbage pickup

ANN ARBOR, MI – Ann Arbor is committed to fighting climate change. Now city officials are talking about garbage.

In order to reduce CO2 emissions and promote sustainable living, city officials advocate the idea of ​​reducing roadside rubbish collection from weekly to every other week.

This could be in conjunction with efforts to get people to recycle and compost more and generate less waste, said Lisa Disch, D-1st Ward, a city council representative on the city’s environmental commission.

The idea has been around for years and it was revived two weeks ago at a meeting of the Environment Commission. A proposed resolution suggested that biweekly garbage collection could help discharge waste from landfills and reduce greenhouse gases from landfills and collection vehicles.

With the new A2Zero initiative to make the city CO2 neutral to combat climate change, a lot of work is being done to align the city’s solid waste strategy with these goals, said Disch.

“Which means really trying to think about zero waste and incentivizing people to create less waste,” she said.

John Mirsky, a member of the Environment Commission, took the lead in drafting the resolution to consider the possibility of garbage collection every two weeks.

As suggested, it urges the city council to instruct staff to conduct an analysis showing public acceptance, possible requirements such as having a year-round compost collection, the educational efforts required, possible adjustments to wagon sizes and numbers, emissions reductions, cost savings and possible compensations are examined, service extensions among other things.

It makes sense for people to compost and recycle more if they knew their garbage was picked up less frequently, but the city needs to educate residents about this shift so they don’t see it as a service cut, Disch said.

In addition, there are working arrangements for waste workers that need to be considered, she said.

“As a city, we’re not going to cut union jobs,” she said.

City officials debated the idea of ​​a bi-weekly garbage collection a decade ago, but the talks in 2011 centered mainly on cost cutting. A big problem at the time was that there could be odor problems in the summer. One suggestion was therefore to adjust the schedule only in the colder months.

But when city officials approved a new solid waste plan in 2013, they dropped the idea altogether, saying residents were against it, some “quite emotional”. A councilor said residents were concerned that their rubbish, sometimes including animal droppings and baby diapers, would be “very uncomfortable” if left for two weeks without being picked up.

In 2013 the Council also voted to delete the idea of ​​incentives to reduce waste.

Extending the time between garbage collection is now one of several ideas to view landfill garbage mentioned in Ann Arbor’s new A2Zero plan as a future possibility, along with the introduction of a fee-by-amount, size limit and availability of dumpsters and the use of funds from trash can fees for educational endeavors.

The bi-weekly garbage collection is not a policy change that can be implemented immediately, and the logistics and schedule for it have yet to be reviewed by city staff to ensure it could be a positive move for the city, Disch said.

“Because it could easily look like a service cut and people would get annoyed if they didn’t understand what motivates it and if they didn’t buy into what it goes with,” she said. “And so this is a great conversation starter right now coming from the Environment Commission. It’s not a plan. “

City staff currently have no comment on the proposal, said Robert Kellar, spokesman for the city’s civil service.

As with so many things about high carbon lifestyles, people are programmed to do things the way they do now, Disch said, adding that such changes could cause great dismay among residents.

But it’s worth talking about as it requires extensive behavior changes, she said.

“The idea that garbage is picked up every other week is a big change for people,” said Disch. “It’s probably not as great as reducing vehicle miles traveled by 50%, but it’s in that range of things that not only do solar panels go to your home, but how you go about their disposal as well Think about your disposal consume. And we live in a culture that tells us to consume with devotion. “

Before the city switches to garbage collection every two weeks, it should probably do more to educate residents and businesses, raise awareness, make composting more efficient, and encourage people to make more recyclable, reusable, and compostable materials as opposed to items and intended to be used for landfill, said Disch.

“I think a lot of Ann Arbor residents don’t know how much you can actually compost,” she said.

Ann Arbor enables residents to put not only garden rubbish and leftover food, but also compostable bags, bins and cutlery in compost bins, provided they are officially “BPI-certified” by the Institute for Biodegradable Products.

Craig Hupy, the city’s public services administrator, discussed some of the city’s strategic solid waste objectives during a city council working session on Monday evening March 8th.

By 2023, the city plans to divert 45% of materials from landfills and increase the per capita diversion rate for organic waste to 20%, he said.

He outlined potential spending of $ 6 million to meet these goals, including $ 1.1 million for new commercial composting services, $ 1.4 million for new multi-family composting services, $ 400,000 for new electric vehicles for multi-family complexes and $ 99,000 for year-round residential composting expansion, $ 100,000 for circular economy grants, $ 2.3 million for capital costs for a regional full-service recycling drop-off point, and $ 156,510 for associated operating expenses, $ 200,000 – $ 200,000 for education and outreach, $ 200,000 to develop requests to assist in suggestion of rerouting destinations, and $ 40,000 for services related to University of Michigan student moving in and out.

A new recycling drop-off point could emerge “if we align our partners and move on,” Hupy said, noting that city residents account for less than 50% of the use of the existing drop-off point on Ellsworth Road.

Hupy also unveiled the goal of increasing commercial recycling by 5% annually.

Disch asked him how the city was planning to do this, as they did not see adequate funding for it.

“I look at all of the slides that are about how you increase things and I see the delivery of recycling carts in residential areas and multi-family dumpsters, but I don’t see any additional expansion to commercial purposes,” said Disch.

“We talked about how we can support external advice,” replied Hupy. “There we will develop these plans and provide services for these. While we are streamlining how we collect downtown, the goal is to make it easier and more convenient for people to use these services. “

Disch also asked Hupy how the expansion of composting services would align with the city’s A2Zero goals.

“Are we driving around more trucks picking up things but not getting a big bang for this money?” She said.

“I think you are aiming for year-round collection in residential areas, which may be the case when we take a closer look,” Hupy replied.

But with the new commercial and multi-family composting programs proposed, the expectation of getting these materials out of the waste stream will be worth the expectation, Hupy said.

The city predicts that the Solid Waste Fund’s cash reserves will drop from over $ 8 million to about $ 4 million over the next two years as various initiatives are launched and expenses exceed revenue. This would mean that the fund balance would remain roughly at the targeted level in two years’ time.

Savings from lower garbage collection could help improve other services, Disch said, adding that there is room for additional composting services for schools and homes.

“Right now, the groups with the most compost carts are single-family homes, and the city would need more collection capacity to distribute more of those carts,” she said. “And those would be all good instructions for the savings you would get from collecting garbage every other week.”

Year-round compost collection in residential areas, which is to be financed in the next fiscal year and added from December to April, would be very limited, probably once a month, said Disch.

“The service doesn’t extend beyond people who now have compost wagons. That means it is mostly single-family houses and probably apartment buildings that have compost wagons. So it’s very small,” she said.

Hupy outlined more budget increases of over $ 770,000 related to solid waste, including $ 50,000 for a fast charger for electric garbage trucks and nearly $ 196,000 for higher costs for moving to greener vehicles, despite a decrease in maintenance and fuel costs runs out at $ 35,000.

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