Letter to the Editor: “Crowd disapproves of per-bag trash fee”

I am encouraged that the City of Brunswick has started the dialogue concerning ways to decrease what we throw away and increase what we recycle. Some read this headline (“Crowd disapprove of per-bag trash fee”) in the Frederick News Post and think the conversation is over. I suggest, however, that it has only begun.

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Most of the residents that spoke at the public meeting on the Tuesday (December 9th), opposed the per-bag fee model of Pay-As-You-Throw. But according to the article: “several of the two dozen in the audience indicated they would be receptive to exploring options for recycling more and landfilling less.”

brunswickmayorcouncil300wThe response of the audience, and the fact that five of the council members did not outright reject the concept, indicates to me both the council and the residents are receptive to developing some program to achieve the stated goals of recycling more and landfilling less.

If I were advising Mayor Tome and the city council, my suggestion would be to seize this opportunity and appoint an advisory or ad hoc committee with a well-defined mission and time line.

For example:

Your goal is to explore options for increasing our curbside recycling rate and decreasing the amount of residential trash we landfill. Your findings should include a summary of the city’s existing policies, practices and costs associated with solid waste collection and disposal. The report will be presented at a public meeting to the Mayor, Council and residents within three months of appointment.

Systemic change is always difficult. Involving the public early in the process helps develop the sense of ownership necessary to effect change. An ad hoc committee comprised of city residents instills that sense of ownership while empowering them to become progenitors of a model that contributes to the solution.

Excerpted from Mayor Tome's Power Point presentation to the council.

Excerpted from Mayor Tome’s Power Point presentation to the council.

(Click to open a larger version.)


Frederick News Post
Crowd disapproves of per-bag trash fee; council pushes for more recycling
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Patti Borda Mullins

EXCERPT: Trash talk packed City Hall with people who do not want to pay by the bag to throw out their garbage.

About 20 public speakers either outright opposed or had doubts about how a pay-as-you-throw program would work, forcing them to pay per bag of trash. A show of hands later indicated that several of the two dozen in the audience would be willing to explore options for recycling more and landfilling less.

Five City Council members also said they do not support a total switch to pay-as-you-throw program that would charge users by the number of bags they throw out, but they said they would consider a hybrid option that would allow residents to throw out a certain volume of trash before incurring an extra charge per bag.

Mayor Karin Tome, who made sustainability issues a campaign priority two years ago, put the topic on the agenda for discussion purposes. She told the public that no program will be implemented and no change will occur in trash collection without an ordinance change, which could happen only after public hearings and a majority council vote.

Councilmen Carroll Jones, Harry Lashley and Jeff Snoots and Councilwoman Angel White said they do not support the full pay-as-you-throw option. Councilman Walt Stull said he has not made up his mind but is open to considering the options.

“I do like the hybrid approach,” Lashley said. “I think we should keep going in that direction.”
Councilman Ellis Burruss joined Tome in support of the pay-as-you-throw program concept. Both see it as a way to save money that comes out of the city’s general fund, which committed $161,000 in fiscal 2014 to pay to haul trash to the landfill.

“It makes financial sense to the city to have residents divert solid waste to recycling as much as possible,” Tome said.

The county provides the city’s curbside recycling service, which costs the county nothing, Tome said. It costs the city $69 per ton to landfill trash, for a total of $147,000 in fiscal 2014 to dispose of the city’s trash.

Frederick News Post Editorial
Brunswick looks at pay-as-you-throw
Thursday, November 13, 2014

EXCERPT: Pay-as-you-throw is a fairer way to go, because residents pay according to the amount of trash they generate. As things are now in Brunswick, and most other places, a single-person household pays the same for trash disposal as a household with five residents, even if it generates five times the trash that the solitary person does. Likewise, a household that is diligent about recycling pays the same for trash service as a household that doesn’t bother to recycle.

We spoke with Brunswick Mayor Karin Tome and Councilman Ellis Burruss, both of whom support the pay-as-you-throw concept and believe it could work for their city. Kudos to them and other forward-thinking officials and residents of Brunswick who want to investigate this option.

This meeting was the first of what we hope will be a series of meetings in Brunswick. Nothing was decided, and lots of questions remain. We might suggest that the city invite someone from Aberdeen to come to Brunswick and explain how and how well its pay-as-you-throw program is working there. We think that would draw a good crowd and be very helpful to both city officials and residents.

When asked about that initial meeting, Burruss, who was in attendance, replied, “Tonight is not the end of this discussion. It’s just the beginning.”

We look forward to that discussion continuing and hope Brunswick residents do as well.

Excerpted from Mayor Tome's Power Point presentation to the council.

Excerpted from Mayor Tome’s Power Point presentation to the council.

(Click to open a larger version.)