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Langley backs county curbside recycling plan

A curbside recycling program under consideration for Island Disposal customers on Whidbey Island now includes Langley and that’s just fine with the City Council.

At its regular meeting Monday, the council gave Mayor Larry Kwarsick the green light to send a letter of support for the proposal to the Island County Commissioners in a 4-1 vote.

“I think this is a move forward,” said Councilman Hal Seligson.

“I support the idea because I think it is incumbent for all of to recycle … this might get a few more people on the bandwagon,” Councilwoman Rene Neff said.

The only council member to vote against sending a letter of support was Doug Allderdice. His objections were based on the fact that the proposal does not include all recyclables.

“The part that troubles me the most is the inability to recycle glass,” Allderdice said.

Basically the same plan pitched in 2007, the curbside service would be offered by Island Disposal — the county’s franchised hauler — and would apply to all of its customers who currently subscribe to trash pickup.

The plan does not require non-customers to sign up for garbage or curbside recycling nor does it hindering existing customers from canceling their current service.

While Langley is also being included in the proposal, Coupeville is not because it’s on the verge of adopting its own curbside service with the same company. Similarly, Oak Harbor has its own curbside program.

As for cost, a proposal from the company earlier this year quoted a cost of $11.60 per month; nearly twice as much as the $6.40 a month quote in 2007. County officials, however, are optimistic the quoted price would decrease once its reviewed by state regulators.

They also argue that the additional expense to customers would be mitigated by a reduced waste stream. It’s generally believed that recyclables make up about 50 percent of garbage, which would allow those who don’t recycle at all to see cost savings by reducing the frequency of their pickup.

For example, customers who have two-can-a-week service could presumably downgrade to one-can-a-week service.

Like the original plan, subscribers would be provided a 96-gallon cart to be filled with a range of unsorted recyclables, from newspaper and old phone books to aluminum cans and plastic milk jugs.

Glass is not included, however, and is shaping up to be a hurdle for many would be customers, just as it did when the plan was proposed five years ago. Many, such as Allderdice, complain that it doesn’t make sense to pay for curbside service if you will still have to self-haul glass.

Kwarsick, who proposed the letter of support, said this was a matter “near and dear” to his heart as he is a former director of the county’s Public Works department played a past role in the management of county solid waste disposal.

He argued that a separate container for glass may be provided to residents or a drop-off station set up in town so people wouldn’t have to drive to Bayview. He also said this was just the beginning of a plan that could be improved upon in the future.

“You’re looking at this thing as ‘What you see is what you get,’” Kwarsick said. “This thing will change.”

Monica Guzman, the only member of the public to attend the meeting, noted another problem. Like many people, she is already an avid recycler, which means she won’t see the savings of reducing her weekly pickup. All she’s get is an increase in her bill.

Since this will affect so many people, she suggested it might be prudent for the council to take a little more time and ask constituents what they think.

“Don’t you think this is something you want to consult with the public on before you go about making a decision?” Guzman said.

But Kwarsick said existing recycling efforts on Whidbey Island aren’t free. They come at a cost and are ultimately transferred to both taxpayers and Island Disposal customers.

“Whether you recycle or not, you still pay for recycling in Island County,” said Kwarsick, adding that a curbside program would just be more “direct and fair.”

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