St. George modifies recycling program regulations to remove choice to opt-out

This 2017 file photo shows aluminum cans in a collection bin at Rocky Mountain Recycling, St. George, Utah, Sept. 22, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The city of St. George voted at the City Council’s April 16 meeting to make changes to its ordinance dealing with solid waste, recyclable materials, collection and disposal.

The city has previously operated under an ordinance that required residential recyclables to be collected by the Washington County Special Services District. When the program started in 2015, residents were given the option not to participate, but on April 16, the City Council voted 4-0-1 (with Michele Randall absent) to remove the opt-out option moving forward.

The council felt that because the residential collection program has now been established, opting out should no longer be an option, and the program should be treated in the same fashion as the solid waste collection program.

With the exception of anyone who opted out of the program before April 1, 2020, residential recycling will be mandatory for all citizens if the city makes the program available.

As to those who previously opted out, utility customers who had services as of Oct. 31, 2015, and opted out of curbside residential recycling prior to the April cutoff point may continue to decline the service with certain stipulations: “only if there is an extreme financial hardship,” said St. George Mayor Jon Pike.

The Washington County Solid Waste “BLUCAN” program cans located in Santa Clara, Utah, June 17, 2019 | File photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

Approximately 25% of residents who initially applied to opt out had been granted their request. This figure, city officials say, has “significantly” tapered off.

Otherwise, the opt-out option will no longer be available to all new residents for the duration of the current contract, which ends in January 2021.

“The only opportunity is to appeal through a process if there is a (financial) hardship,” Pike said. “We are currently trying to renegotiate three contracts. I am not sure yet if we will be doing recycling or offer it up, but the cost will go up.”

Until now the Washington County Special Services District has subsidies the costs for recycling for the past three years.

The current contract with its recycling vendor expires at the end of January 2021, and Pike estimates, depending on buy-in by customers, the cost could increase by as much as $3 per month for a total bill of $5 per month.

“If too many people opt out it might be $5.50 or $6 a month,” Pike said. “I think in the meantime we are not going to let a lot of people opt-out through the process and meet the (financial hardship) criteria.”

Councilwoman Dannielle Larkin said the business of recycling is challenging with vendors needing to make money on the waste that is collected.

“I know we will go through the (contract) negotiations and figure this out,” she said. “But I would love to see us talk more about reduce, reuse and recycle. We’ve really hit recycle hard, but the way more effective approach is reducing and reusing, which we really don’t talk about.”

By a redirection of focus, Larkin added, there could be a large reduction of recyclable garbage being processed by a vendor.

Ed. note: The duration of the opt-out option no longer being available has been clarified.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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