The new garbage program is effective, city officials say.
After the New Year, Frankfort residents were greeted with two new garbage carts – one for garbage and one for recycling – as the city implemented the new pay-as-you-throw garbage collection system.
Now, three months into the program, Public Works Director Jeff Hackbart says the amount of solid waste going to the landfill – which the city pays per ton to send – is down while recycling heading to the Lexington plant – which the city earns a profit from for sending – is up compared to the numbers at this time last year.
“The program is working in terms of our goal to increase recycling and decrease solid waste,” Hackbart said during Monday’s City Commission work session.
Commissioner Sellus Wilder spearheaded the efforts to revamp the collection before Jan. 1, and about 10,000 carts were on the street a month before the Feb. 1 start date.
Every property owner was given a choice between a small cart at no charge, a medium cart for $4 a month and a large cart for $12. The households also received the recycling cart at no charge.
The theory behind the pay-as-you-throw system is to give residents an incentive to recycle more, which in the long run could save the city money.
The city allowed residents a few weeks to get accustomed to the new carts during the month of January, and without enforcement, solid waste decreased by 18 percent compared to January 2011.
In February the fees and fines were implemented, and solid waste sent to the landfill decreased by 28 percent and in March by 33 percent compared to last year’s figures.
Recycling rates look different as well. In January residents placed 30 percent more recycling on the curb than in January 2011. By February the rate increased by 32 percent and in March by 35 percent compared to last years numbers.
The new system replaced a $5 monthly flat fee for service, and now residents are limited to place only what can fit inside their garbage carts to the curbsides or they face a $25 fine.
“But the service charges are very infrequent,” Hackbart said.
For the months of February and March the solid waste department made about 80,000 curbside pickups, and 52 fines were handed out.
“It’s a very low number – we expected a lot more,” Hackbart said.
The 52 fines were whittled down from about 1,800 violations, Hackbart said.
Residents are given five days to correct their garbage misuses before a fine is handed out by city staff; however, the amount of violations was cut in half from February to March, Hackbart said.
Most of the violations related to misuse of the recycling carts – placing items in the recycling carts that are not meant to be recycled including plastic grocery bags and yard waste.
The city still picks up yard waste under the new program but in a separate truck that will not be sent to Lexington with the recycling, Hackbart said.
Some residents saved their old, personal cans to use only to collect grass clippings and limbs, Hackbart said.
And as for the plastic bags, the city is charged if the forbidden thin grocery bags- are in the recycling stream once the products reach the Lexington plant.
“That’s why it’s kind of a battle,” Hackbart said.
Styrofoam is another common material recycled when it should be placed with the garbage.
“We try to keep a clean product so we can keep up our relationship (with the Lexington plant),” Hackbart said.
Another common violation is residents leaving their carts on the curbs past their service dates.
Hackbart says his department and county officials were surprised by the lack of illegal dumping both expected.
During research of the city program, officials found illegal dumping typically increases when a program is first implemented, but Frankfort has not had a spike at this point, he said.
The department has continued educating users about the program – especially large households, he said.
The department is ready to distribute a Spanish version of an information brochure, and Wilder suggested hosting recycling events for the community.
“Overall, I think they generally like it,” Hackbart said about customers’ reactions to the program.
“We thought it would be a good barometer at three months, and we are much further along from what we thought it would be.”