Increased participation in Bowie’s recycling plan has city officials considering a decrease in regular trash collection.
This September, Bowie aims to complete an effort to give all of the city’s roughly 20,000 homes larger recycling containers, a move officials say has increased recycling and could lead to the city cutting trash pickup from two days per week to once per week.
Since introducing larger 65-gallon recycling containers to city homes in 2009 to replace 22-gallon bins, the city has seen an increase in recycling, said Jim Henrikson, director of the city’s Department of Public Works, which has spearheaded the project. After deploying about 8,000 containers in 2011, the city saw a roughly 236-ton increase in recycling during the fourth quarter of 2011 versus the same period in 2010 — a shift from about 946 tons to 1,182 tons. Because of the significant increase with only 40 percent of the city using the new carts, the Bowie expects to see an increase of about 590 tons per quarter of the year, or about a 60 percent increase in recycling, across the city once the container distribution is completed, Henrikson said.
“Bowie people are really environmentally conscious, so I knew [the larger containers] would be embraced,” he said.
The increase in recycling might allow for reduced pickup of regular trash, said Councilman Dennis Brady (At Large). With more residents putting items in recycling as opposed to regular trash, the amount of trash building up should decline enough to lessen the need for twice weekly pickup, said Brady, adding some weeks he has virtually no trash as he recycles extensively.
“If you can do a better job to encourage folks to sort their stuff more thoroughly, you may not need two-day-a-week pickup,” he said
The Bowie city government currently picks up recycling once per week, grass and other special items once per week and trash twice per week. By reducing trash collection to once per week, the city could save on pay and gas, Brady said. The city typically spends about $5 million annually on solid waste disposal.
Brady said he would like the City Council to examine the issue later this year so it could be considered for the next year’s fiscal budget.
“This should be a cost-saving. I can’t see how it couldn’t be,” he said.
Reducing trash pickup might not bring savings, Henrikson said. If trash builds up at homes, trucks from the city’s Solid Waste Division might end up making multiple trips through neighborhoods to pick up all of a community’s trash, which could wind up costing more time and gas, he said.
“The large carts are carrots to get people to recycle. Once-a-week [trash] pickup is a stick,” Henrikson said. “I don’t like using a stick.”
The city has to pay to dump its trash, and for every ton that doesn’t end up in the landfill, the city saves money. The city also can make money for each ton it recycles. Bowie receives a minimum of $5 for every ton of recycled material it drops off and has received as much as $60 per ton depending on market conditions for the recyclables, Henrikson said.
The repercussions of going to a weekly trash pickup is something Councilman Henri Gardner (District 3) said he intends to ask staff to look into before moving forward with the idea.
“It’s something we might have to look at and explore but be careful about,” Gardner said. “We don’t want to remove a service that our residents have become accustomed to.”