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Santa Fe considers higher recycling fees for automated single-stream system – without glass

SANTA FE – The city of Santa Fe is proposing a rate increase for both residential curbside and commercial recycling fees to help pay for the equipment it needs to fully implement its planned single-stream recycling program with automated pick-up.

A public hearing on the proposed rates, which would increase residential rates by 14.1 percent, will be held during Wednesday’s City Council meeting sometime after 7 p.m.

A rate increase for recycling is coming before the Santa Fe City Council, as the city moves toward an automated pick-up, `single-stream' recycling program. Residents will have to take glass to designated drop-off centers. (JOURNAL FILE)

A rate increase for recycling is coming before the Santa Fe City Council, as the city moves toward an automated pick-up, `single-stream’ recycling program. Residents will have to take glass to designated drop-off centers. (JOURNAL FILE)

The proposed increase would generate approximately $760,000 each year and be used to pay off a $4.2 million New Mexico Finance Authority loan for vehicles, roll-off dumpsters and carts and aims to “assure that rates will not have to be increased again until after 2020,” according to city documents. The rate increase would go into effect July 1 and automated single-stream recycling service is expected to start up next September.

Under the new program, there will no longer be curbside recycling pick-up for glass, which is not accepted by the facility in Albuquerque where Santa Fe’s recyclables are shipped, and trucking the bottles elsewhere would be expensive. But mobile stations for glass will be set up at as-yet unspecified locations throughout the city each day of the week. That is, a mobile recycling center for glass will be stationed at one location each Monday, another location each Tuesday, and so on.

The glass Santa Feans have been putting out for recycling the past few years has been crushed and stockpiled at the local landfill and will be used as part of a leachate-collecting liner on new sections of the landfill.

“The mobile stations will have flexible hours so people can drop off their glass at an hour that makes sense,” said Nick Schiavo, the city’s public utilities and water division director.

Currently, the base recycling rate for residences is $13.80 per month. If approved, the charge would increase to $15.75 per month. Commercial recycling rates would go up on average 17 percent.

Schiavo said the rate increase also should help the residential recycling program work toward becoming self-sufficient. While the recycling program as a whole operates in the black, the residential side has been running a $300,000 annual deficit.

Schiavo also said during a Finance Committee meeting last month that the new recycling program could save the city money by reducing risk management claims. He said the Solid Waste Division experienced a 30 percent reduction in workers’ compensation claims after the city switched from manual regular trash collection to automated collection. Schiavo also has said studies have shown that a switch to automated collection, with trucks’ machine arms picking up the bins instead of workers doing the job, has resulted in a 75 to 80 percent increase in recycled materials.

Last summer, the city expanded the types of paper and plastic material residents can put in recycling bins to include such items as cereal boxes, corrugated cardboard, brown paper bags, plastic water bottles, deli clamshells and yogurt containers.

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