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By Mike Hazlip—
Citrus Heights residents filled a room at Antelope Road Christian Fellowship on Tuesday night to hear a Republic Services spokeswoman outline changes in collection and fee increases related to state-mandated changes organic recycling.
Beginning in July, green waste will be collected weekly as part of the new initiative, and fees will also go up by about $14 per billing cycle. Residents can scrape food waste into the small container until it is full, then dump it into the green waste container.
The new program requires 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.
Republic Services Municipal Manager Annah Rulon said her company, which contracts with the city to provide waste collection in Citrus Heights, has worked to make the transition to what she called “massive piece of legislation” as easy as possible for residents.
“We’ve been working with the city to come up with a comprehensive program that we can give to all of the homes here in Citrus Heights in order to properly take that organic waste out of the trash, separate it, and process it so it can be composted and turned into soil amendment instead of going to a landfill,” Rulon said.
The company will be providing a two-gallon container for organic kitchen waste for each household. The new container can be stored on a counter, in the freezer, or under the sink. Republic Services will not provide bags for the new container, Rulon said, but she encouraged residents to use paper bags.
Residents can expect to receive further information from Republic Services and the City of Citrus Heights in June with more specific details, Rulon said. Currently residents will be allowed to use bags, but the company has not yet clarified if plastic bags will be allowed.
Will recycling be enforced?
Republic Services will also be responsible for enforcing the new ordinance, Rulon said. The company plans to conduct a “small amount” of checks throughout the year.
“The likelihood of your house being audited is pretty low,” she said. “But you may see someone in a safety vest once a year at your house and they may leave a tag.”
Community members have reacted with frustration over the new changes, with one meeting attendee saying: “So, we’re having to work harder and pay more.” Others have vented about the matter on social media.
“I completely agree with you,” Rulon said in response. “[The city’s Operations Manager] and I have been preparing for this for years and we have lost sleep over it, and we are just as frustrated about some of the outcomes as you.”
Why organics recycling?
The passage of Senate Bill 1383 by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016 aimed to curb methane emissions by reducing the amount of organic waste in landfills, with a portion of the bill going into effect in 2022. The law requires jurisdictions to provide weekly organic waste collection services, or face hefty penalties.
Rulon called the methane produced by organic decomposition “worse than carbon dioxide” and said the goal of the project is to divert organic waste away from landfills.
“The idea behind it is to capture this material before it goes into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas and to turn it into something valuable like compost and soil amendment,” she said.
In a January 2020 report, industry news journal Waste Dive showed Republic Services was identified as the top “super-emitter” in California by a joint study conducted by California’s Air Resources Board and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The study was conducted between 2016 and 2018, according to the report.
Residents have an opportunity to protest the rate increase at an upcoming 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 the rate increase is defeated and the program doesn’t go into effect, the city could be fined $10,000 for each day they are out of compliance, Rulon said.
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