In 1992, when the city began using stickers as part of the first curbside recycling program in central Ohio, the approach was innovative and residents took pride in their efforts. And while we continue to be a leading community for recycling habits, a lot has changed since our program began.
Today, recycling is ingrained in us to the point where many households easily fill a small 18-gallon recycling tote and often line the curb with multiple recycling containers filled beyond capacity. While stickers may once have been a critical incentive to encourage recycling, several other central Ohio communities have higher rates of household recycling than UA.
The secret? These communities use a standardized 65- or 95-gallon recycling container. National data suggest that communities that transition to larger, standardized containers see increases in their recycling rates of up to 30 percent.
Something else that has changed is the feasibility of a "pay-as-you-throw" program. For more than 25 years, our system was modeled on the premise that the people who throw away the most should pay the most. But after receiving bids for this service, we learned the true cost for trash and recycling collection is the same for the hauler each week, regardless of how much or how little trash we set at the curb.
While the idea of a flat fee for all users may be a tough pill for some of us to swallow, the evidence of this inherent flaw in our program has been apparent for many years, beginning in 2008 when we initiated the first annual solid waste fee.
And over the years, as sticker sales decreased, we increased our solid waste fee several times in an effort to evenly spread the costs across all users.
The sticker system is also cumbersome and labor-intensive, which often results in service issues. In addition to pick-up and basic service problems, we frequently get calls on windy days about blowing trash and recycling. And it's hard to miss the mattresses or other large items that occasionally sit at the curb because they lack the required number of stickers.
As a resident, I have experienced many of the problems firsthand. Our current system is not only performing poorly, it is complex and difficult to use. In fact, in a recent community survey, respondents gave their lowest ratings to this service.
In 2018, the city will implement a new solid waste program featuring standardized containers for recycling and trash, with curbside yard waste and bulk item pick-up provided at no additional cost. The use of stickers will be discontinued.
Trash and recycling pick-up should be easy to use and dependable, and as a community, we will all benefit from greatly improved aesthetics on collection day.
Before year's end, residents will be mailed detailed information about the program in advance of receiving two standardized, wheeled containers with attached lids -- one for recycling and one for trash. Samples of these containers are on display at the Municipal Services Center, 3600 Tremont Road. We think they will go a long way in keeping our community clean on pick-up days.
For more information on these changes visit uaoh.net/trash2018.
Dan Ralley is Upper Arlington's assistant city manager. This column was provided to ThisWeek Upper Arlington News by the city.