Not so long ago, people were questioning whether or not the citizens of Decatur would respond to an expanded recycling program and whether or not the city could afford it.
On the first point, there seems to be nothing to worry about: The city reports nearly 50 percent of residential households have ordered up a blue wheeled tote, up from just 15 percent under the previous, limited program. It's to the point the city is having trouble getting them all delivered. I've ridden through neighborhoods all over town and seen entire streets with blue totes sitting at every curb. To cite somewhat less anecdotal evidence, recycling tonnage this past May and June were double what they were during the same months the previous year, according to figures the city obtained from Midwest Fiber, the company that receives the materials. May 2011 saw 246 tons recycled compared to 122 tons the previous year, and June 2011 saw 280 tons recycled compared to 130 tons the previous year.
Those unable to get the program have agitated to me: I've heard complaints from acquaintances who live in large apartment buildings and have twice received calls here at the Herald & Review from mobile home residents who want to know how they might get the service (trailer park residents can't due to billing issues).
Recycling isn't a particularly exciting issue, but it seemed like there was a lot of resistance to it when City Manager Ryan McCrady first aired the issue late last year in a proposal that ultimately was put on hold. From the overwhelming adoption rate and significant increase in tonnage recycled, I can only conclude that people who wanted it just didn't speak up as loudly the first go around.
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Whatever the case, they're recycling now, and all those hundreds of tons of soda cans, cereal boxes and milk jugs won't be taking up more space in the local landfill.
The other issue is whether haulers can continue to operate the program, along with the new changes to garbage service that gave residents the option of paying less money for less service. One hauler has told me that providing the service is essentially a wash for him, neither bringing money in nor costing him any extra to provide.
All the haulers are saying the same thing, which is that they need a rate increase, after a number of years without one. That may not be likely considering the City Council's aversion to most increases.