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By Mike Hazlip-
With new organic waste regulations technically in effect as of Jan. 1 statewide, Citrus Heights residents are asking questions — but have until July 1 before the program is set to be fully implemented and a significant fee increase goes into effect.
Vice Mayor Tim Schaefer told The Sentinel in an email last week that residents will see an “initial increase” to their waste collection bill beginning this month, but a higher rate increase and changes in collection services aren’t slated to be implemented until July.
“With regard to actual collection changes, those will be implemented over the next few months,” Schaefer said. “By July when the program is fully operational a significant rate increase will be implemented.”
Under the new changes required by SB 1383, green waste carts will be collected weekly instead of bi-weekly, and residents will be required to place food scraps and food-soiled paper in the green bin.
The new program requires the city’s waste collection contractor, Republic Services, to hire three additional drivers, a part-time auditor, three vehicles, customer outreach and education, material processing, and administration costs. The increased service is expected to cost the city an estimated $2 million annually, which will be passed along to residents through increased service costs.
As a result, fees are slated to jump by about $6 beginning in July 2022, rising from $23.61 for a typical 64-gallon garbage cart to $29.80, according to a city mailer. Prices will then rise by up to 3.5% per year over the next five years, based on the Consumer Price Index. The city says the average cost increase for residents will be about $7.10 per month, or $14.20 per every two-month billing cycle.
Information posted to the city’s website shows the new organics bin is intended to be used for items such as meat scraps, dairy products, egg shells, and fruit and vegetable peels and trimmings. Food-soiled paper products are also intended for the organics waste bin, such as used napkins, paper towels, and paper cups.
As in the past, the green organics bin is also intended for yard waste such as leaves, grass clippings, plants, prunings, shrubs, and small branches.
A frequently asked question section on the city’s website says residents should not currently be placing food waste into their green bins.
“Although we are very happy to see residents getting excited about upcoming residential organics recycling, residents cannot currently use their green yard waste cart for food waste. Waste processing facilities have different processing requirements for only green waste versus green waste mixed with organics,” the city says online. “At this time, residents should continue placing only green waste in their yard waste cart until notified otherwise.”
The Citrus Heights City Council in a split 3-2 vote approved a new contract with Republic Services in October to comply with state requirements, although several council members expressed their opposition.
“I find the whole thing just over-the-top ridiculous,” Councilman Bret Daniels said at the time. “It’s a state-mandated thing, it’s unfunded, I’m going to vote no on it.”
Ratepayers still have a chance to protest the new fee increases during a public hearing slated for 7 p.m. on Jan. 27 at City Hall. As required by Proposition 218, ratepayers are also be able to submit a written protest.
If enough ratepayers oppose the increase, the fee increase could not legally go into effect — but Citrus Heights residents would likely lose other Republic Services waste services such as bulk waste pickup to offset the increased cost mandated by the state legislature.
The program, initiated with the passage of Senate Bill 1383 by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016, aims to curb methane emissions by reducing the amount of organic waste in landfills. The law requires jurisdictions to provide weekly organic waste collection services, or face hefty penalties.
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