Tax­pay­ers pay for re­cy­cling, so speak up

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - let­

Fayet­teville’s re­cy­cling staff says they must have new curb-sort trucks now. Even though Fayet­teville staff had in­put de­sign­ing the cur­rent multi-com­part­ment trucks, em­ploy­ees still have to sort each bot­tle, can, etc. They have to lift the 18-gal­lon bins from the ground up to the truck. Imag­ine do­ing that hun­dreds of times a day, sev­eral days a week, in all kinds of weather.

Too bad the past cou­ple of years were not spent de­sign­ing the per­fect truck, one that would elim­i­nate back strain and repet­i­tive mo­tion syn­drome, while pro­vid­ing end-users (com­pa­nies mak­ing new prod­uct from our re­cy­clables) with qual­ity feed­stock. Maybe the city could’ve made money with a patented de­sign.

In­stead, time was spent in meet­ings with con­sul­tants dis­cussing sin­gle stream. The con­sul­tants were paid over $320,000. At a Wa­ter & Sewer Com­mit­tee meet­ing in 2016, staff an­nounced how pleased they were with the sin­gle-stream pi­lot. They said there was very lit­tle glass break­age. Hmm, while we do live in the Bi­ble belt and mir­a­cles do hap­pen, I be­lieve Fayet­teville’s glass does break. Upon con­tact­ing the glass in­dus­try, it was con­firmed that our glass does break.

At the time city staff was telling us our glass doesn’t break, the glass in­dus­try was in tur­moil be­cause the ma­jor garbage haulers have con­trol of most of the na­tion’s re­cy­clable re­sources (this is one elephant on the re­cy­cling sort line). In April 2016 the glass in­dus­try met in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to dis­cuss how the heck to deal with the sin­gle-stream mess.

The glass in­dus­try is the only end-user to ap­pear be­fore the Fayet­teville City Coun­cil dur­ing all the sin­gle-stream dis­cus­sions. They asked that we keep glass sep­a­rate from other ma­te­ri­als. Not one end-user from the pa­per, plas­tic, or metal in­dus­try has dark­ened the door of our City Coun­cil cham­bers to say, “Please toss all your re­cy­cling to­gether. It pro­vides us with bet­ter qual­ity feed­stock.”

If an end-user did re­quest sin­gle stream, I’d won­der if they owned an in­cin­er­a­tor and planned to burn our pa­per, plas­tic, etc., to fuel their fa­cil­ity. Ev­ery com­mu­nity needs a re­cy­cling trans­parency/ac­count­abil­ity or­di­nance. Would you op­pose such an or­di­nance?

We don’t have equip­ment prob­lems; we have process and cul­ture prob­lems. The process could’ve be­gun with a sin­gle-stream study, done (for free) by the En­vi­ron­men­tal Ac­tion Com­mit­tee. Upon do­ing their home­work, the com­mit­tee would have in­formed the com­mu­nity that sin­gle stream was ini­ti­ated and pushed by ma­jor garbage haul­ing com­pa­nies, not end-users.

We need a cul­ture in which staff are not afraid to speak the truth, even if the mes­sage is un­pop­u­lar. They know sin­gle stream is a mess. I sus­pect they also know which com­pa­nies col­lect and dump re­cy­clables in the land­fill.

I don’t mind pay­ing taxes if I feel the dol­lars are used wisely. Novem­ber is bud­get time, when the City Coun­cil de­ter­mines 2018 ex­pen­di­tures. You might con­sider ask­ing ques­tions in your area of in­ter­est. By the way, Sur­vey­Mon­key is not a ran­dom sam­ple, so take note when told about cit­i­zen “sur­vey” re­sults.



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