Herb Jaffe: New system would alter Las Vegas trash collection

There’s a lot of trash talk going on in City Hall these days, and it’s not just the kind you might expect a month after one of the most contentious elections on record. We’re talking about the garbage you put out for collection.

There’s a move afoot to change the system Republic Services uses to collect garbage throughout Las Vegas. It would replace a procedure that has been in use for decades with one that was installed in unincorporated Clark County three years ago, and more recently in Henderson and North Las Vegas.

If the Las Vegas City Council approves Republic Services’ proposal, you no longer will be putting those plastic bags of trash out on your curb twice a week. Nor will you be lugging boxes of recyclables out to the curb once every two weeks.

Instead, Republic Services will provide you with two wheeled carts — one for garbage and the other for recyclables. And instead of the current schedule for pickups, two trucks will come by just one day a week — one for garbage and the other for recyclables. Republic Services consultant Bob Coyle added that “every other week we send a ‘bulky item’ truck that takes anything that won’t fit in the carts.”

The carts would come in three sizes: 35 , 65 and 95 gallons, whichever best accommodates your needs. And the cost for this new form of service, which could eliminate numerous garbage-collector jobs? More than likely no different from what you’re now paying.

For Republic Services, a driver and a pickup person on each garbage truck adds up to four people a week handling your trash. Under the new system, there could be just the one-day-a-week driver, because the trucks would be equipped mechanically to handle the carts. So that could eliminate some jobs.

But there’s one advantage for both sides: The new system would encourage recycling, which has enormous environmental benefits. The company recently built an ultra-modern, $40 million recycling-processing center to handle the increase in recyclable materials. Of course, it then sells the recycled materials you give it and pockets the return.

However, add in this factor: The investment in new trucks, two new rolling carts for each home and a new recycling-processing plant represents good long-term business for Republic Services.

So where does this proposal sit on the city’s schedule of priorities? Several months ago City Manager Betsy Fertwell told a Sun City Summerlin audience that it’s still in the negotiating stage, and she hoped for a resolution before the end of the year. But city spokesman Jace Radke said recently that a vote might not be imminent. Radke also noted that pilot programs have been under way throughout Summerlin and elsewhere in the city to test the proposed system.

David Steinman, president of the Sun City board of directors, said he thinks “the new system is inevitable, if not in 2017 then certainly by 2018.” Steinman, who fears for elderly people being unable to push trash carts in some hilly sectors of his senior community, also noted that rules that prohibit exposed garbage canisters on the outside would have to be changed. And he questioned the potential for odor from trash carts being kept in garages for an entire week, especially during summer .

But Karl Wiedemann, another member of the Sun City board, lives in one of the test areas and has found the new system to be advantageous.

“No one that I know of in my test area is complaining. We’re satisfied with the new system, which has been in place for more than two years,” Wiedemann said.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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