With most Bowie homes equipped with larger recycling bins, the city is moving forward with a study that could lead to trash pickups being cut to once a week.
City Manager David Deutsch said city staff would have a report examining the costs and benefits of reducing trash pickups from twice a week to once a week by March.
An analysis by the city’s public works department found that such a switch would only save about $7,000 in the fuel spent to send vehicles out to neighborhoods twice a week. Bowie’s current budget is about $53 million with waste disposal costing around $5.2 million, according to the city’s budget.
That savings didn’t seem to match the inconvenience of having to save food debris, said Rafael Ocasio, president of Bowie’s Woodmore Highlands Homeowner Association. While Ocasio said his family could perhaps do without twice a week pickup during some parts of the year, during the summer months when he entertains guests and generates more trash he enjoys the convenience of being able to put out trash twice a week.
“I'm not in favor of trash [pickup] once a week. Twice a week is fine,” he said. “Seven thousand dollars is not a whole lot of saving if you're talking about millions.”
Since the city began providing the larger 65 gallon and 35 gallon carts in 2010 to about almost all of Bowie’s roughly 21,000 households and finished phasing out older and smaller 22-gallon recycling bins, there has been a dramatic increase in recycling and the amount of trash collected, according to city records.
Since July 1, city officials estimated that about 17,000 tons would be dropped at area landfills and about 12,000 tons would be recycled. In fiscal 2008, about 25,600 tons were shipped to the landfill and about 8,300 were recycled. The increased recycling saved the city about $58,800 in disposal fees, according to the city 2013 budget.
“We committed to council to studying the impact of the large carts,” Deutsch said. “We've been tracking it and are tracking it, but now we have the whole city with the carts, which will allow us to compare [figures] to prior quarters.”
The shift from trash to recycling benefits the city in multiple ways, according to city officials. Bowie receives a minimum of $5 for every ton of recycled material it drops off and has received as much as $60 per ton, said Jim Henrikson, city public works director. The city has to pay about $57 to $59 per ton to drop off its refuse and every amount kept out of area landfills saves the city money, Deutsch said.
“The trend line is very positive [and] we think it’s going to continue,” Deutsch said.
Switching to once a week pickup could wind up requiring the city’s trash trucks to work longer and make multiple trips into communities into order to pick up trash, Henrikson said.
“The perception people will get is we’re cutting people's service in half and it wouldn't be worth it,” he said.