ARLINGTON -- Arlington will be the latest North Texas city to switch from recycling bins to larger, wheeled recycling carts.
The City Council voted 6-3 Tuesday to approve a revised contract with Republic Waste Services and launch the recycling cart program early next year.
The 65-gallon wheeled carts will roll out to Arlington's 93,000 households in about six months. Residential customers, who currently pay about $1.93 per month for recycling services, will see a 94-cent increase in their monthly water utility bill whether they recycle or not, city officials said.
Council members Lana Wolff, Robert Rivera and Charlie Parker voted against the carts.
"The majority of citizens are just not comfortable moving forward to change a system that works well," Rivera said.
At least 14 residents at Tuesday's council meeting supported the carts, with some saying the larger containers would encourage people to recycle more. Others said they prefer a lidded cart to the current 22-gallon open bins, which contribute to neighborhood litter on windy days.
Grace Darling with the Arlington Conservation Council called the need for increased recycling not just a green issue, but an economic issue for the city.
"We need to extend the life of our landfill. The consequence of having a landfill that is no longer usable is dire," said Darling, who said it would cost the city significantly more to ship its trash to another community. "We are going to have to increase our recycling rates."
About 40 residents at the meeting opposed the carts, for issues ranging from the nearly $1 a month fee increase to a lack of storage space at their home for the larger container. Some requested that the council put the issue to a citizen vote.
"No citizens asked for this plan. We expect you to operate in our best interest and not somebody else's special interest," resident Buddy Saunders said. "Why should we, who are all very happy with the current service we have, why should we pay more for a change in service that a lot of people clearly do not want?"
Arlington, which has offered curbside recycling since 1992, has been discussing a switch to recycling carts with Republic for more than a year.
"We want to keep everything we can out of our landfill," said Mayor Robert Cluck, who said the rolling carts are much easier to haul to the curb.
The fee increase is expected to generate about $9.3 million in additional revenue over 10 years to help Republic recover most of its planned $10.1 million capital investment.
Republic expects to spend $4.6 million to purchase and deliver carts; $3.7 million to buy 13 new collection trucks that run on cleaner-burning fuel and can mechanically pick up the carts; and $1.8 million to build a compressed natural gas fueling station for its trucks, said Nick Stefkovich, area president for Republic. As part of the contract revision, Republic will allow the city to use its fueling station for the city's compressed natural gas-powered vehicles at a discount.
Before the vote, Parker expressed concern that the move to carts would ultimately affect how often garbage and recycling is collected, as it has in other cities. Parker, the newly elected District 1 council representative, also said he could not support asking "the people of Arlington to make that capital investment" for Republic.
"The majority of the e-mails I got are worried about just that thing happening, that they will be getting less service and paying more money," Parker said.
Public Works Director Keith Melton told council members that the city is not in any discussions with Republic to reduce garbage pickup from twice a week or recycling pickup from once a week and that any such changes would require another contract revision subject to council approval.
Many area cities have already adopted a recycling cart system, including Fort Worth, Dallas, Denton, Mansfield, Hurst, Roanoke, Westlake, Trophy Club, Lancaster, The Colony and Seagoville.
Council members Wolff and Michael Glaspie raised questions about the challenges some neighborhoods, such as those with hilly terrain, alley ways, narrow streets or no garages, may face storing or setting out the carts.
Nick Stefkovich, area president for Republic, said the company would work with those individual customers on where to best place the carts for pickup.
"My sense is that 99 percent plus of the locations are going to be serviceable by the cart," Stefkovich said.
Republic will continue front-door pickup for Arlington customers who are physically unable to get their recycling to the curb.
Before the vote, Councilwoman Sheri Capehart requested that Republic not embed radio frequency identification, or RFID, chips in the carts.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578