Petersburg Pilot -

Blue recycling carts cause a stir for some locals

 

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The 96-gallon recycling carts were rolled out on Monday.

Public Works kicked off the start of the week by distributing the long awaited blue recycling carts on Monday, but some Petersburg residents found the cans just flat out huge. The size of the 96-gallon carts were the subject of a social media post on Facebook's "Buy & Sell & Trade PSG AK" page that received almost 70 comments.

Many of the comments were humorous and at one point the recycling program was compared to Obamacare, and one person even suggested they might cut windows in the cart and rent it out to seasonal workers during summer months. However, some of the comments were serious enough that Public Works Director Karl Hagerman took the time to write lengthy comments in order to answer some concerns.

"Any time you have change, and large change in a small town there is going to be hurdles to overcome," Hagerman says. "We are definitely seeing some pushback on the program now that the carts are being distributed."

Hagerman says he has no regrets or hesitation whatsoever about undertaking the program and the commotion about the carts is not overwhelming. The majority of people that have received the blue carts seem to be fine with them, and some locals are downright ecstatic about them. So far, the positive feedback heavily outweighs the naysayers and Hagerman is very positive about the path chosen by the borough, he says.

There is a limited number of smaller 64-gallon carts that will be made available for residents in mid-March. Hagerman says if folks living in small garbage volume households cannot stand the larger cart because they are not using its capacity, they can ask for a smaller cart after the two month trial period. However, the goal of the program is to have people try and utilize the 96-gallon cart to start. Hagerman believes once people use the larger carts they will see the benefit of having the extra disposal space available.

"There is just so much material that is recyclable in our waste stream," he says. "I firmly believe that if people really try to recycle they're going to find all kinds of things to put in the cart, and they will not have an issue with it not being full or not using it."

One of the biggest things about using the carts to recycle is that materials must remain dry. So keeping the lid of the cart completely closed is a must, and the larger carts provide that assurance, especially with potentially bulky items like cardboard, Hagerman says.

This is a voluntary program with a financial incentive attached to the program so the borough must track the participation. Hagerman says the only way the borough can know if people are participating is if they put their cart out every week. Customers that sign up for garbage service are offered a 20 percent discount each month for being part of the recycling program. This equates to a little over $5 off a customer's garbage service bill, he says.

Another concern of some locals is that the new truck purchased by the borough won't be able to access some of Petersburg's narrow streets, like Birch Street. Hagerman is positive the truck will be able to work in a full capacity around town, and turning around at the end of some streets might mean a tricky three or four-point turn, but it's not impossible and totally doable, he says.

"This is the right way to go, absolutely," Hagerman says. "It's an economic issue. It's not just because we wanted to do this because it looked cool, this is completely economic driven."

Hagerman says going to carts is much more economically beneficial to the borough rather than staying with the blue bags. The cart program will allow the borough to build its reserves quicker and stabilize customer rates longer, he says. Hagerman also expressed a huge gratitude for the service of Angela and Wes Davis of Rugers Trucking for doing such an outstanding job of collecting and handling the blue bag recycling for Petersburg.

"The borough is happy that the transition is moving forward, and we ask our customers to please be patient with any bumps in the road we will likely have," Hagerman says. "We are committed to the program and we are going to make this as smooth as possible for everybody."

Martin Luther King Day takes place on Monday, so the borough will start collecting the blue carts on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Hagerman says all the information that a person needs to know about the program is available online at http://www.ci.petersburg.ak.us. There is also a packet of information for customers included in each blue cart that Public Works distributed. The packet includes guidelines for recyclable material, an information sheet and calendar to keep track of collection dates.

Hagerman says anyone with questions or concerns, and anyone that would like to opt-out or join the recycling program just needs to call Public Works at 772-4430, and let them know.

 

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