April 27, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? Thats what we think of Lakewood's half baked attempt at curbside recycling

It is good to see Lakewood join the majority of cities in LA County and step up to curbside recycling to try and reach the AB 939 mandated diversion goals. Lakewood is quite a few years late to the curbside recycling game however. Bellflower for example made the switch at least 10 years ago. Even Paramount beat Lakewood! But better late than never. We called into question over a year ago Lakewood's recycling percentage "claims". Your slide presentation implies that Lakewood is still not meeting its diversion and recycling goals. It also appears that Lakewood is in the bottom 5% of cities in LA county as far as diversion rates.

I saw the staff presentation slide show (there was no written report). I hope that Lakewood has surveyed all the other similar cities to learn what works and what does not.

Here are some areas we are currently concerned about your proposed plan:

1. Cost. Yes we know you indicated that costs will be the same (only thru 2010) as the current collection service but there were no surveys done to compare Lakewood's new service to other cities service. We hope that the city surveys all other cities with similar programs to determine if the proposed month costs are above or below the average (and posts the results of that survey promptly on its website) Also it would seem that since residents were now doing the sorting themselves instead of being sorted by a facility, that costs would go down. Perhaps you should give small carts away free but charge for all larger ones.

2. Green waste. Keeping our old cans for green waste seems like a responsible idea but we do not know of any other cities doing that. We also see an opportunity for fraud here by residents slipping garbage into the old cans. It also needs to be limited by the numbers of old cans residents can set out. The other problem is that this preserves the quaint "back alley" look to Lakewood streets by keeping all the old beat up, mismatched, overflowing trash cans instead of replacing them with all new carts that match, have lids that stay closed and dont tip over so easily.

3. Remember the the three R's that you like to put on all your fliers. REDUCE, reuse, recycle. As far as "reduce" (the first 'R') residents need to be charged as they are for every other utility: by the amount they use. The more waste you put into the system the more you should be charged. Some of this cost can be recovered by charging more per month for the collection of larger carts and for the collection of more than one standard sized green waste can (self supplied). Failure to do this might cause residents to think your three 'R' campaign is a bit hypocritical or that its all hot air or 'greenhouse gas' anyway...

4. No penalties for co-mingling trash with recyclables? Well this is typical of Lakewood's lack of enforcement of other city ordinances. The fear of irritating a few residents and loosing a few votes paralyzes the councils thinking and action. If some lazy person does not want to do their part why should other residents doing their job by separating recyclables pay more (through increased duping costs passed along to all residents) for those that are simply too lazy to do what many residents are already doing? This lack of penalty (and likely enforcement) will doom the entire purpose of the system.

5. Parking (yes the sacred 'P' word) With trucks making three passes in front of your house the city better reconsider allowing parking on the street on trash days. No parking will make it safer and faster to collect the trash. Also as the new trucks are automated, not parking on the street would allow them to line up better with the new cans and pick them up with less human manual input for alignment and collection.

6. Scavengers. Most cities enact ordinances that prevent scavengers from profiting off the separated curbside recyclables. As there is no separation going on now (except for those of us that really care about the environment) there is no need to prevent scavengers. But once separation is widespread (we hope) then scavengers will be a problem as we will be the only city in the area with no anti scavenging ordinance. This is likely to be a problem.

Overall I think Lakewood has finally woke up and realized that they have to put some teeth into their recycling effort or there will be some serious cost increases hitting Lakewood residents in the near future. But from the looks of this plan all we see is non sorted trash and just enough non compliance to ruin any chances of lowering our "tipping" or dumping fees. Lakewood's three R's are just what we thought: just words printed on slick paper ("Lakewood Living" newsletters) that fill the landfill. (oh and we would like to know what percentage of that paper is "post consumer recycled")

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA
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