Sara Melnicoff addresses the Moab City Council before members voted on a new contract with Monument Waste Services. Melnicoff told the council she would favor residents have the option to pay for and receive curbside recycling services rather than being forced to pay. Photo by Carter Pape
The Moab City Council voted unanimously to implement an opt-out, single-stream recycling program in the city. Under the new plan, residents can opt out of curbside recycling, paying only for garbage services, and many could see monthly fee reductions for the services.
Under the new plan, residents who wish only to receive garbage services will have the option to pay as little as $12 monthly for curbside services, a $5 decrease from the current rate.
For residents who do not opt out of biweekly recycling services, curbside pickup will cost between $24 and $30 per month. This compares to the $29 total monthly fee for residents who currently get their recycling through Green Solutions.
Under the new plan, which was passed during the regular council meeting on Tuesday Feb. 12, businesses will bear the brunt of recent fee increases at landfills and recycling centers. Monument Valley will levy rate increases of between 14 and 65 percent on Moab businesses starting on March 1, according to City Council Member Karen Guzman-Newton.
Recycling services for businesses will remain optional, at least for now; council members and city staff expressed a desire to eventually have businesses participate at a greater rate in recycling.
City Manager David Everitt said that the new recycling and garbage fee structure is designed to incentivize businesses to participate in the recycling program. Businesses can save money on their waste services by accepting smaller garbage bins in exchange for recycling bins.
About 30 citizens came to the meeting Tuesday night to speak before the council. Everitt said it is “rare” that so many citizens would show up for a council meeting and that he was excited to see so many people involved in the legislative process.
Nearly all of the citizens who addressed the council concerning the new recycling program spoke against the proposal to mandate people to use the service.
During the hour-long period of public comment, citizens asked questions of the council, provided prepared comments, made a reference to the Dr. Seuss classic, “The Lorax,” and expressed gratitude toward council members for their delaying of the vote to give the public an opportunity to provide input. One resident spoke in favor of the idea of mandatory recycling.
Some council members shared concerns about the city’s impact on citizens who produce very little waste, how to educate the public about how to ensure a clean recycling stream and the large rate increases that businesses will soon face.
Many council members said they received emails from the public about the recycling center on East Sand Flats Road in which some citizens incorrectly assumed how the recycling center is funded.
The recycling center is funded by tax revenue, primarily the Transient Room Tax, which is levied on visitors to local hotels, motels and other overnight accommodations. According to Everitt, this means that the recycling center is funded in large part by tourism.
When asked whether he believed the recycling center would close as a result of the more aggressive curbside recycling program, Everitt said, “I don’t think so, and I hope not.”
Everitt said that he thinks the operations of the recycling center will evolve over time, perhaps to begin handling waste streams such as from construction and or starting a composting program.
Sara Melnicoff, founder of Moab Solutions, staunchly opposed mandated recycling when the idea was pitched earlier this year and has advocated for the recycling center to remain open and operational.
Melnicoff told The Times-Independent after the vote that she was “so happy” with the city council’s decision to go with the opt-out system, particularly because it helps people for whom mandatory recycling would have been “a financial burden.”