ARLINGTON -- Homeowners will pay nearly $1 more per month for recycling if the Arlington City Council approves a proposed switch today from bins to larger, wheeled recycling carts.A public hearing is scheduled at tonight's meeting before the council votes on the 94-cent-per-month fee increase, which would help Republic Waste Services recoup most of its planned $10.1 million investment in a new recycling program and natural gas fueling station.If approved, all 93,000 Arlington households could receive a 65-gallon recycling cart by early next year.Arlington has offered curbside recycling since 1992. Residents currently pay about $1.93 for the service on their monthly water utility bill, whether they recycle or not, Public Works Director Keith Melton said. The proposed fee increase is expected to generate about $9.3 million in additional revenue over a 10-year period to help Republic recover its capital investment."We didn't just rubber stamp this number," Melton said. "We did scrutinize the numbers. I feel comfortable that is a fair price."Republic, the city's garbage and recycling contractor, seeks to switch residential customers from 22-gallon open bins, which must be picked up manually by workers, to 65-gallon recycling carts that can be picked up mechanically by collection trucks.Making the change also would allow the company to reduce the number of recycling collection workers from three to one per truck, make the job safer, reduce litter and help extend the life of the city's landfill by encouraging people to recycle more, said Nick Stefkovich, area president for Republic."It's a popular conversion going on with a number of communities," Stefkovich said. "People like the ease with which you can move a cart. Generally, people are receptive to that versus carrying one or more bins to the curb."Additional feesArlington would join a growing list of North Texas cities that already use recycling carts. Besides Fort Worth and Dallas, other participating cities include Denton, Mansfield, Hurst, Roanoke, Westlake, Trophy Club, Lancaster, The Colony and Seagoville."There are very few cities that are larger than 100,000 people that don't have a cart program," Stefkovich said.Mansfield rolled out 95-gallon recycling carts to its 16,000 households in June. The switch from 18-gallon bins cost Mansfield residents an extra $1.07 a month on their water utility bills, said Howard Redfearn, the city's stormwater manager. Those additional fees pay for the carts, provided by Republic, as well as the company's new diesel-powered, automated collection trucks that service Mansfield.So far, just over 100 Mansfield households that do not wish to recycle have requested the city take away the carts, Redfearn said. About 2,100 households have requested the smaller 65-gallon carts, he said.Arlington residents would also be able to opt out of the cart program, though they would still pay for recycling services on their monthly water utility bill.Safer systemArlington distributed about 2,900 of the carts to select households during a two-month pilot study earlier this year and found that recycling participation and volume increased in those neighborhoods, officials said.While a majority of participants who responded to a city survey said they were overall in favor of the carts, only 52 percent of respondents said they somewhat agreed or strongly agreed that a rate hike of up to $1 a month would be worth the switch.Purchasing and delivering the carts to Arlington households -- the most expensive part of the project -- would cost Republic an estimated $4.6 million, Stefkovich said. The city of Arlington currently spends about $100,000 a year to buy recycling bins, which are available to residents for no charge, Melton said. The new system will require the company to increase the number of trucks that serve Arlington, Stefkovich said."It's a little bit longer. A worker can toss a bin in the back and flip it back on the curb faster than the mechanical arm can cycle it," he said.Though slower, the system is safer for collection workers."We think it's more dangerous today to have people in the streets than it was 20 years ago. We feel drivers are more distracted than they were," Stefkovich said. "We have been fortunate that we have not had it occur locally. It does occur in our industry regularly across the country."If carts are approved, Republic would continue front-door pickup for Arlington customers who are physically unable to get their recycling to the curb.This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578Twitter: @susanschrock
By the numbers
94 cents -- A proposed per-month fee increase for Arlington residential customers that is expected to generate $9.3 million in additional revenue over the next decade to help Republic Waste Services recoup its investment in a new recycling program and natural gas fueling station.
$4.6 million -- cost to purchase and deliver the 65-gallon, wheeled recycling carts to Arlington's 93,000 households
$3.7 million -- cost to buy 13 new collection trucks that run on cleaner-burning fuel and can mechanically pick up the carts
$1.8 million -- cost to build a compressed natural gas fueling station for its collection trucks. If the program is approved, Republic would also allow the city of Arlington to fuel its compressed natural gas-powered vehicles at a discount.
Source: City of Arlington