Trash and treasure

Rethinking the piles: As part of a long-term plan to encourage conservation, the city is shifting the way it charges for solid waste. Hauling trash to the landfill costs the city $1.1 million a year. photo by Max Cooper
Rethinking the piles: As part of a long-term plan to encourage conservation, the city is shifting the way it charges for solid waste. Hauling trash to the landfill costs the city $1.1 million a year. photo by Max Cooper

Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell sees a path to the city's future, and it's paved with trash.

“People will learn that almost everything you throw away in your house right now is recyclable … not just cans and bottles,” said Bothwell at Council’s March 26 meeting. He spoke as Council members reviewed fee changes for garbage, parking, water rates and more.

Set to take effect in July, a new $7 trash-and-recycling fee doubles the current charge, which covers recycling only. Bothwell said the increase is one step toward making Asheville truly green. In the future, the city may charge incremental rates that encourage conservation — customers using bigger bins holding more trash would pay more, while those who recycled and otherwise reduced their trash would use smaller bins and pay less, he said.

Creating a curbside-composting service could also reduce how much trash the city hauls to the landfill (annual tipping fees total $1.1 million for Asheville’s trash).

“We can really make that shift, and we're trying to give people a financial reason to do that,” Bothwell continued. He acknowledged, “This is a big change, it really is. That's where all this is going. It will hurt a little bit, but it's going to help a lot.”

Council member Jan Davis cautioned, “I don't think we do a good job of explaining what we do.” When Ashevilleans pay their property taxes, they think they’re paying to get their garbage picked up, among other services, he said.

But the city subsidizes both recycling and solid-waste service, Davis explained. The current $3.50 monthly recycling fee partially covers paying a private contractor to collect, sort and haul paper, plastics, cardboard, cans and glass. If the city charged its residents the full cost for trash pickup, everyone would have to pay $14 a month, city staff estimated.

Davis noted that dealing with trash is “an expensive proposition.” Annually, solid-waste costs are $5.8 million, including brush pickup and recycling. The city receives just $1.2 million in recycling fees each year.

As part of an effort to further encourage recycling and reduce the amount of trash hauled to the landfill, in 2012, Asheville switched to larger recycling bins, no longer requiring that recyclables be sorted.

Of such changes and the new fee, Davis concluded, “I think we're trying to recover the cost of trash. I know this is the first part of getting to a progressive place on solid waste.” 

Moving on

Meeting earlier than usual to accommodate Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer's observation of Passover, Council delayed voting on potentially controversial matters, such as final approval of the downtown Business Improvement District budget and bylaws, as well as new exterior signs at the McDonald's in Weirbridge Village, a business park in south Asheville. Council will take up these issues on April 9.

To keep the annual budget process on schedule, Council members reviewed and voted on various proposed fee increases, which included trash pickup, parking and more. The fee package passed 5-0 (Mayor Terry Bellamy and Council member Gordon Smith were absent).

City staff estimate the new and changed fees will add more than $2.2 million to the city coffers, with more than half coming from the trash pickup changes.

So expect to bring an additional quarter per hour of parking downtown, and check your water bill. Council approved a 1 to 3 percent water-rate increase, targeting the higher rate for large, nonmanufacturing businesses. The charges for renting various city facilities also went up, and to get wheel boots removed from their vehicles, the most egregious parking offenders will pay $50 — double the old cost.

Council delayed voting on proposed increases for the Aston Park Tennis Center and the Food Lion Skatepark, but will review these and other budget issues at a 2 p.m., Wednesday, April 3, worksession and town-hall meeting, which will be held in the second-floor banquet room of the U.S. Cellular Center.

For a detailed list of the new fees, you can download the full staff report from the city’s website at http://avl.mx/rr.

— David Forbes can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 137, or dforbes@mountainx.com.

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