Residents vow to fight Arvada’s takeover of residential trash collection
Arvada aims to increase its slow recycling rate and reduce heavy truck traffic while residents want to take a break on their trash bills with a municipal roadside garbage collection program.
Starting March 8th, homeowners in Arvada will be asked to choose from three sizes of trash cans, with the service price increasing with the volume of the container. It is an incentive-based approach that is already in use in several Colorado communities to encourage people to throw away less and to help cities better achieve sustainability goals.
It sounds good on paper, but there’s a catch: for people who oppose the transition, Arvada will charge a mandatory minimum monthly service fee of $ 5.13. Failure to pay can result in the assertion of a mortgage on a homeowner’s property.
There is a growing contingent of Arvadans who believe that the city is sticking its nose where it shouldn’t. One person in a city forum compared the service fee to blackmail.
“We are against a city-mandated garbage disposal monopoly in Arvada and we urge people to vote and opt out,” said Jonah Hearne, a 20-year-old resident who plans to go door to door next month Dozens of like-minded citizens are calling on neighbors to reject the new program.
For Tom D’Agostino, a three-year-old resident of Arvada, who is satisfied with the service he receives from his contract partner Waste Connections, giving up the city is a no-go.
“I’m not going to pay for something I’m not going to use,” he said.
City officials say the opt-out fee, which is less than that charged by other communities with similar programs, is necessary to make the program viable on a city-wide basis. And residents will continue to receive garbage disposal – bulky items, as well as leaves and garden debris handover – even if they stick with their current haulier.
Colorado saw this fight in several suburbs of Denver. In 2017, Westminster residents rushed to council chambers alongside Arvada to condemn the city’s plan to introduce a centralized garbage collection system.
Two years later, voters in Lakewood shot down a poll that would have authorized the city to manage garbage disposal there. Arvada himself looked at consolidating the garbage service a decade ago before putting the idea up in the face of the opposition.
Arvada City Council approved the current plan in June and it is scheduled to start on July 5th.
Kate Bailey, Policy and Research Director at Eco-Cycle, Inc. in Boulder, consulted with Arvada about the new garbage collection plan. She said the hustle and bustle over the problem could seem puzzling to much of the rest of the US, where municipal garbage services are more common.
“People from the rest of the country look at us like we’re crazy,” she said. “That makes a lot of sense and yet, strangely enough, it’s political.”
Andy Cross, the Denver Post
Marice Flippin, plumbing worker at Waste Connections, rides in the back of his truck as she walks in a neighborhood near W. 70th Pl. And Welch Ct. in Arvada February 19, 2021.
Incentive to recycle
Arvada will take a one-haulage approach to garbage collection and, unlike the nine different hauliers currently offering a home pick-up service in the city, will sign a contract with Republic Services for the city-wide service.
The city will also use the pay-as-you-throw model already in place in several Front Range communities like Lafayette, Louisville, Golden, and Sheridan. Arvada would be the largest city in the state to adopt it.
The principle is simple: the more you throw, the more you pay. In Arvada, a 95-gallon garbage truck costs $ 19.76 per month, a 65-gallon truck $ 15.63 per month, and a 35-gallon truck that can hold three to four kitchen-sized bags is $ 11.50 each Month.
Each household in the program will receive a 95-gallon trash bin for free, which Bailey said increases geese recycling levels. The evidence is in the data, she added.
According to Eco-Cycle, the top recycling communities in the front range have citywide programs that automatically provide trash cans – and communities that use a pay-as-you-throw approach stand out, Bailey said.
Loveland, which charges just $ 3.25 per month for a 17-gallon trash can, tops the list with a 60% recycling rate. Louisville and Lafayette are 44% and 36%, respectively. Arvada’s recycling rate is below 15% according to previous surveys of freight forwarders, Bailey said.
According to a study published last fall, the 2019 recycling rate in Colorado was below half the national average.
“Pay-as-you-throw has an element of behavior change, similar to how tiered water prices help incentivize water conservation,” Bailey said.
A 2018 study by the University of New Hampshire found that among 34 cities that used the pay-as-you-throw model, waste disposal rates fell between 42% and 54%, according to reports from The Associated Press. Another study in neighboring Maine found that cities with the incentive system produce approximately 44% less garbage per capita than communities without the program.
In Sheridan, a working-class suburb south of Denver, city manager Devin Granbery said the pay-as-you-throw program has brought tangible benefits to the city since it started in 2014.
“Recycling has increased from practically zero to 75% of our roadside residents, with a diversion rate of 15%,” he said.
The system also helps cut down on road maintenance, said Kurt Kowar, director of public works for Louisville. The city of Boulder County has had a garbage collection program since 2010.
“Trucks have a tremendous impact when turning, and areas like dead ends are torn apart over time,” said Kowar. “In general, one garbage truck is the equivalent of 1,000 cars a day on the road.”
This is important to Rachael Smallwood, who moved to Arvada from North Dakota five years ago. She is one of dozens of city residents who have lauded the program online.
“It was a shock that there were so many gigantic trucks clearing all of this pollution,” she said. “That is important to me as our climate crisis is worsening.”
Smallwood said she barely fills a third of her trash can a week and will go for the smallest container Arvada offers, which gives her a huge discount on the $ 30 she now pays monthly.
“Put it on a ballot”
But for opponents of Arvada’s single-hauler garbage system, they don’t just mind what they see as a persistent approach to garbage collection. They say the means by which the new program was approved – a narrow 4-3 margin of the city council in the middle of a pandemic rather than a referendum – is problematic.
“If you suddenly change the relationship between the city and the people – take a vote,” said Hearne. “The city collects money that many people consider a tax and gives it to a private company.”
Last year’s vote so outraged some Arvada residents that they tried to recall the four councilors who voted in favor. The recall never made it to the vote.
Mayor Marc Williams, who spoke out against the individual transport contract, also believed that the issue should have gone to the voters. But he said, “The Council has spoken.”
“I knew this was going to be as controversial as it was 10 years ago,” said Williams.