Concord plans for roll-out recycling

Big changes are on the way this summer in how the city collects household garbage and recyclables.

The city expects to save about $1.7million in collection costs when it switches July 5 to fully automated trucks with mechanical arms. The trucks will be used for weekly garbage pickup using the existing 96-gallon roll-out carts and for every-other-week recycling using similar 96-gallon carts, instead of the current rectangular bins, City Manager Brian Hiatt said.

Residents won't be charged any fees for the changes, said Allen Scott, the city's solid waste and recycling director. Residents will continue to pay for the services through their property taxes, Scott said last week.

The city is saving money in part because it put the services out for bid, and the bids came in lower than what the city has been paying, Scott said.

Automated trucks need only one worker - the driver - so the city won't need as many workers on routes, Scott said. That also means fewer potential worker's compensation claims, he said. And each automated truck can serve more homes, he said, further cutting costs.

But with each truck having only the driver, residents will have to bag all garbage and place it inside the cart. Proper cart placement will be essential, so the driver can use the mechanical arm to pick it up, Hiatt said in a recent column on the city's website.

The city's contract with current provider Republic Services calls for one garbage cart per single-family household. The city will pay for collection of garbage in that cart once a week.

If a resident generates more garbage than can be bagged and placed in the cart, the homeowner will need to order another cart from the city and pay for the additional service.

"This is designed so that the majority of residents that are able to manage with one cart are not paying taxes to subsidize the cost of those who cannot," Hiatt said.

Florida-based Waste Pro was low bidder on both the garbage collection contract and the one to collect recyclables.

To help residents reduce their waste so that one cart for garbage is enough, Waste Pro in July will start collecting recycling with the same type of truck. The city will provide a separate 96-gallon container so residents can put recycling materials in it and roll it out to the street, to be collected every two weeks.

New recycling carts will be delivered before July 1 with specific instructions on all the changes, Hiatt said.

Residential yard waste will still be collected on a weekly route, just like garbage. But this month the city began requiring residents to call in for collection of other items, including bulky waste, appliances, swingsets and tires. Bulky waste collection will still be limited to 10 cubic yards.

Electronic waste, such as televisions and computers, will be collected on a call-in basis beginning July 1. A new state law has banned electronic waste from landfills, so they must be recycled.

Other local governments plan to ask their residents to take those items to a central facility, Hiatt said, but Concord will be able to offer the service curbside.

Concord customers will call 704-920-5555 to schedule pickup of items that will not fit in the cart.

Hiatt said saving the $1.7million is crucial to partially offset a decline in revenues in the poor economy. Concord has lost about $2million because of the economy and because of changes in the formula used to divide sales tax revenues to the local governments in Cabarrus County, he said. The city also lost more than $2million in property tax revenue from the Philip Morris USA closure.