Aberdeen's fledgling curbside program uses stickers


April 11, 1993|By Karin Remesch | Karin Remesch,Contributing Writer

For years Norma Ford never worried about how much trash she put out for curbside collection. Today, she hardly ever fills more than half a trash can a week.

By recycling instead of tossing most of her trash, she not only saves on her trash bill, but also helps to protect the environment -- something she thought about only occasionally in the past.

Mrs. Ford has been sorting her garbage since March 1 when Aberdeen households were required to buy stickers for curbside trash pickup.

And her efforts, and those of thousands of other Aberdeen residents, have resulted in a 36 percent decrease of Aberdeen's trash in March alone compared with the previous nine-month period, said Terry Miller, chairwoman of the Recycling Task Force, a group of volunteers that oversees the new trash collection program.

The sticker program was started to offset costs passed on to the city by trash haulers after the county last summer started charging a $35-a-ton tipping fee for dumping garbage in the landfill or at the waste-to-energy plant at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Before the tipping fee, residential trash removal in Aberdeen was paid for with tax money.

After the fee was imposed, a $12.50 charge was added each quarter to a household's water bill to pay for trash collection.

The flat fee for trash removal was viewed by some Aberdeen residents as unfair to those households with small families or those that produce little garbage, Mrs. Miller said.

"We tried to come up with a fair and equitable program -- a program that allows residents to pay for only what is put at curbside and at the same time encourages recycling," said Mrs. Miller.

The Aberdeen sticker program was patterned after similar efforts on the West Coast.

Instead of paying the quarterly fee, residents now buy stickers for the trash they place curbside. The cost is 40 cents for a purple sticker for each 20-gallon trash can or garbage bag of up to 13 gallons, and 80 cents for yellow stickers for a 32-gallon can or a bag of up to 30 gallons, said Mrs. Miller.

"Though it's voluntary, the more people recycle, the less trash they will have to put out, which in turn will result in tremendous savings on the trash bill," said Mrs. Miller.

Stickers are sold at City Hall, by mail, or at various stores throughout the city.

A month into the program, Mrs. Miller said she is thrilled with the response.

"In addition to the trash tonnage decrease, recycling in Aberdeen has increased by 50 percent over the previous nine-month average, bringing the city's total rate of recycling -- excluding yard waste -- to 23 percent," she said.

The new program also will save the city money because of less trash being collected.

"We anticipate a $40,000 to $45,000 savings this budget year because of the program," said Mayor Ruth Elliott. When Mrs. Ford first received information about the sticker program in January, she said, she was skeptical about it.

"I thought the entire program sounded tacky and bothersome. I didn't feel comfortable with it at all," adding that the thought of sorting garbage did not appeal to her.

Although she was considerate of the environment and recycled on occasion, she thought nothing of filling at least two trash cans a week.

After twice paying a quarterly fee of $12.50 for trash pick-up, she started paying more attention to literature she was receiving from the city about the soon-to-be-implemented sticker program.

And when she realized that her trash bill could be kept to 40 cents a week, Mrs. Ford began to focus on recycling to a point where she now doesn't even buy groceries without thinking about how much she will later have to discard.

"It's a new program and in less than a month I was turned from a skeptic into a believer," she said. "I probably have become its best advocate."

Ed Somody, on the other hand, is a reluctant participant in the sticker program. He considers the new program troublesome, an inconvenience to taxpayers and unfair to apartment dwellers.

"If you have nothing else to do than to sort garbage all day, it's a fine program, but most taxpayers have better things to do," said Mr. Somody.

"I don't want my life dictated by garbage."

He also dislikes having to worry about how much trash he has and having to keep a supply of stickers.

"There are simpler ways to raise money to cover the tipping fee," said Mr. Somody. "A prorated charge of water used in each household would be a lot simpler and fairer."

He said the new program doesn't encourage him to recycle more because he and his family always have recycled.

But Mrs. Elliott said people are recycling more and "the program's success has exceeded our wildest dreams."

She attributes the success to the residents of Aberdeen and the many volunteers who serve on the city's recycling task force.

"Ninety-eight percent of 3,500 households serviced by the city's trash contractor participate in the sticker program and the volunteers are really taking a load off the city," said Mrs. Elliott.

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