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Trash talk in the county

At Tuesday's County Commission meeting
At Tuesday's County Commission meeting
The battle of the trash bins has been settled. Sort of. Maybe.
After more than four hours of debate on Tuesday, and a decade of wrangling leading up to the meeting, a split Clark County Commission approved Republic Services’ desire to cut its pickup days from two to one, and consolidate the three recycling bins it doles out to residents of the unincorporated county to a single large bin.
So it’s this: Two free waste bins, one for recycling, and once-a-week pickup of both bins would replace twice-a-week trash collection and once every two weeks recycling pickup. Probably.
But at last, residents will have single-stream recycling! Perhaps. Before it rolls out the program, the company has to cooperate with the county in analyzing the economic impacts and determine if county taxpayers – who have no choice but to pay for the service as part of regular trash collection – really want it.
Not that everyone really demanded it.
Environmentalists and some sympathetic residents wanted it. Republic management wanted it, too, because the company stands to pocket millions in reduced costs with the new system, which already has been rolled out in parts of Henderson, North Las Vegas, parts of Las Vegas and in a pilot program for 6,600 country residents.
Opponents, of various perspectives, wanted to stick with Republic’s twice-a-week deal, with or without the voluntary recycling.
Some residents are afraid that they’ll have garages full of smelly garbage. Some don’t recycle now and don’t want to do it in the future.
Republic’s unionized workers hate the change, because they fear it will lead to layoffs. (Republic boss Bob Coyle swore up and down Tuesday that while they would trim the workforce by 70 jobs or so over the next five years, it would be through attrition, not layoffs.)
Jennifer Lazovich, Republic’s lawyer, told the commission that the change would lift Clark County’s pathetic 3.5 percent recycling rate to more than 25 percent recycling of waste. That’s the goal set by the Nevada Legislature more than 20 years ago. By comparison, many cities in the West top 30 percent, and some, such as San Francisco, Seattle and San Jose, recycle more than 50 percent of the waste stream.
The good news is that residents of the unincorporated county, some 130,000 homes, would get two large trash bins – one for common garbage, one for recyclables of all kinds – free of charge. The bad news, for fans of recycling, is that it will take several years for the program to kick in.
If it does.
Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who is usually a big fan and vice versa of the environmentalists, is no fan at all of the recycling program. She’s concerned that Republic will get a windfall of cost savings that won’t necessarily pass onto the residents and would still lead to lost jobs at the company.
Commissioner Lawrence Weekly supported his colleague. Homeowners don’t want to recycle, and don’t want to see services cut, he said.
“Change for a lot of us is difficult,” he said, (but) “we have to adjust to it.”
Following Giunchigliani’s lead, Commissioner Larry Brown proposed, and the commission accepted, a proposal to audit Republic’s finances, do an economic analysis of recycling’s impact and undertake a comprehensive survey of the attitudes of Republic’s customers to the existing service and planned changes. Those steps would have to be completed before the recycling program is implemented.
The final vote was 4-2, with Giunchigliani and Weekly opposed to the recycling program. The company has until 2017 to implement it.