The city’s highly unpopular garbage fee may soon be reduced — but there’s a catch.
Before the fee goes down by one penny, residents must stop throwing away their newspapers, magazines, junk mail and cardboard.
As the cost of waste disposal goes down, the Schenectady City Council will reduce the garbage fee, Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard announced.
“What the council would like to do is lower that as soon as we can decrease our costs,” she said.
The city must pay for every pound of trash it delivers to a landfill, while it can recycle paper and yard waste for free.
For every 20,000 pounds of paper or yard waste recycled weekly by city residents — the equivalent of one pound per household per week — the city’s annual waste disposal fee would be reduced by $30,000. That would translate to a 1 percent reduction in the garbage fee, Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen said.
Without any recycling-related reductions, the 2009 garbage fee is set to increase by 10 percent. The fee would be $144 annually for a single-family house, $288 for two-families and $432 for multi-families. A 1 percent cut would save less than $2 per family.
Residents should focus on paper and yard waste recycling. Recycling more metal and plastic containers saves the city money too, but the city must pay a recycling fee that is only slightly less than the cost to dump the materials in a landfill. Paper is far more valuable, so vendors are willing to take it at no cost and resell it to recyclers.
Yard waste also represents a significant savings to the city if it’s recycled. The city can compost the heavy bags of leaves, garden remnants and lawn trimmings for free at the county farm, rather than paying by the pound to dump it in a landfill.
But yard waste can only be recycled if residents put it in biodegradable paper bags, Olsen said.
“It’s critically important only vegetation goes in that bag,” he added. “Don’t put rocks in it. Don’t put trash in it.”
Carved pumpkins can be recycled in the bags, along with any other vegetation. Sticks can be recycled too, but they must be broken into four-foot lengths and bundled.
The city already tracks its recycling tonnage by weighing the recyclables at the county recycling center. If the tonnage goes up, the garbage fee will come down, Olsen said.
Although he’s broken out the fee reduction in terms of per-household recycling, workers won’t weigh the recycling outside each house.
Olsen also said he thinks residents can recycle far more than one pound of paper a week — even if they already recycle.
“Some people are very conscientious and some people don’t recycle at all, but I think they could produce more than one pound,” he said. “It goes well beyond newspaper.”
Magazines, junk mail, office paper and cardboard can be recycled as well. The full list will soon be placed online at www.cityofschenectady.com and is available in brochure form at City Hall.
To encourage recycling, Olsen will also host presentations at the beginning of each city council meeting for the next month. On Nov. 24, he will go over paper products.
In the meantime, residents with recycling questions can call 382-5144, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on business days.
“The more one recycles in the city of Schenectady, the more we can cut the cost of waste collection,” Olsen said.