Evanston could dramatically increase recycling just by providing residents with big recycling carts instead of the existing small recycling bins.

That’s the conclusion of an experiment in which the city distributed recycling carts to residents of two small areas of town to see how much they’d be used. The carts replaced the existing 18-gallon bins now used across the city

Streets and Sanitation Superintendent Suzette Eggleston told the City Council’s Administration and Public Works Committee Monday that the results of the six-week test showed a 32 percent increase in recycling in the northwest Evanston neighborhood bounded by Isabella Street, McDaniel Avenue, Thayer Street and Ewing Avenue. That area got 95-gallon recycling carts.

And in the west Evanston block bounded by Emerson Street, Dodge Avenue, Church Street and Brown Avenue, the test showed a recycling increase of nearly 23 percent. That area received 65-gallon carts.

Eggleston said those results dramatically beat ones reported by the Solid Waste Authority of Northern Cook County, which show gains ranging from 2 to 12 percent when communities switch to the big recycling carts.

Adopting the program city-wide, Eggleston said, would lower the amount of money the city has to pay to have garbage dumped in landfills.

But that leaves the question of how to pay for the new carts, which Eggleston said will cost a total of $800,000.

She said the city hopes to get a $60,000 state grant in each of the next four years to cover part of the cost. The rest, she said, could be raised by adopting a new charge for residents who have more than one trash cart.

About 5,000 of the nearly 15,000 households now provided with garbage pickup by the city have more than one trash cart. The proposed $2.50 monthly service fee for the extra carts, Eggleston said, could raise an estimated $150,000 per year.

And, she said, it should encourage people who have more than one trash cart now to do more recycling in an effort to eliminate their need for a second one.

She said she’s proposing that the city phase in the transition to recycling carts over four years, adding one garbage pickup day to the program each year.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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12 Comments

  1. Looks like a new tax to me?
    Why should we now have a $2.50 added to our bills – will it go away in 4 years after the carts are paid? I doubt it the city will quietly keep the money. This is just like the water bills does anyone but the most stupid taxpayer think the city will lower the fees on water bills once they pay off the sewer project?

    This is just like cutting the compose operation – pretending it save us $80,000 so we now pay to haul the compose to Glenview.

    By the way it appears to me the City used water and sewer funds to cover the operationing problem of $800,000 on the Sherman ave garage? ( anyone know differently?)

    1. How much trash do you have?
      Something tells me, Junad, you must be one of those folks who have two giant trash carts now — otherwise you wouldn’t be complaining about the new charge.
      Why should those of us who put less into the trash stream have to subsidize the anti-green habits of those who are slaves to a throw-away culture?
      — Bill

      1. Bill – do you really think I care about a $2.50 a month charge?
        Bill – I have two trash cans – I think you are missing my point – was the cost to pay for the cans or the extra use. To me this is phony issue – charge me for the extra trash – but don’t tack on a $2.50 bill per month to pay for bins. Also Bill trash is a function of household size – four people generate more trash than one – as an example. My issue is the city is now going in a round about way to increase taxes on us. Clearly it was city policy to have two bins – if I want more can I add an extra $2.5 a month to my bill? Ie $5 a month for three bins?

        I agree bigger recycling bins would be better – I would personal have no problem paying for a larger bin as a one time cost. I think they should offer people the option to order bins – and let them pay and then order a large quanity once a year.

        I do not think the city has run the recycling program all that well – now you can go to the web site and find out what you can recycle – before it was harder.

        Bill what is your opinion on the fact the city cut out the leaf composing operation since you are claiming you are “green”. I do not put and grass into the waste stream – by the way and I cut my little lawn with a push mover. I do not have a green bid for recycling since most of my yard waste stays.

        1. Leave the leaves
          Hi Junad,
          Our house is a little unusual in that the relatively small yard is completely planted with shrubs, groundcover, flowering plants and trees. No grass, so no grass clippings. And we leave the leaves on the ground to compost themselves.

          Far be it from me to claim to be greener than other folks, but a form of use-based pricing for trash hauling sounds pretty logical to me.

          We pay for water based on how much we use. Why not pay for trash hauling that way as well?

          — Bill

      2. Can I just buy a cart?
        Hey, the carts sound like a good idea to me. i don’t suppose I’d recycle any more than I already do, but the convenience alone seems worth it. No more junk mail blowing down the street because the bags I put out blew over. Can’t we start with a pilot “opt-in” program before we commit to finding another $800,000?

  2. Bill I agree people should be charged for what they use
    Bill – I have no issue charging for use for trash – but how do you pay for dumping fees? – not by volume but weight – thus if I use one can and it is full – versue two – lightly filled – maybe the same weight.

    Charging more – is not unfair ofcourse what do you want as the minimum? One can. two cans or more? It appears about 1/3 of the users need two cans – thus is that a real over use? I do not know – but lets no kid anyone – I am not certain there is no cost to the recycling program – one would have to take a good look at this at one point I knew they were paying out versus saving.

    Our water bill issue is very interesting since the city uses it as a tax versus a fee – Ann Rainey has posted the bond agencies down rating of the city and one interesting statement in the letter is the city is using our water bill fees to fill holes in the general fund -thus we are not being really charge for our water use but it is being used as a tax. This is way I view the whole issue you have posted on the bins as just a new tax.

    1. Do a little analysis
      In the pension discussion you tell Bill that “we need to see all the numbers” but when it comes to the use of water revenues you simply assert that water fees are a tax that is being used to plug budget gaps without doing any homework to back up that assertion. Once again, crack open the city’s CAFR:

      Turn to Page 85 of your Adobe viewer. The city transferred $2.69 million of water money to the general fund. Now turn to Page 43 of the viewer. The city’s spent $86.48 million in the last year on expenses and transfers to other funds. So, the “budget gaps” you are talking about amounts to – at most – 3.1% of the budget. A very manageable number.

      But wait, there’s more: where does that water money come from? Turn to Page 203 of your viewer. Last year the water system generated $12.19 million in sales. As the Moody’s article said: the water system has a “large customer base comprised of both Evanston residents and a number of suburban communities that are bound to the city’s water system under long term contracts.” Look again at page 203: $6.389 million of those sales were paid for by residents of Skokie and the Northwest Water Commission – 52.4% of the system’s total revenues.

      Compare that $6.389 million in non-resident payments to the transfer of $2.69 million to the general fund. Hmmm…. I don’t think Evanston residents are really paying for that transfer, Junad. It would seem to me that if the city does away with it then you’ll see some sort of tax increase or service cutback to fill that gap. And we all know how you feel about even the slightest of fee increases (i.e. $2.50 for a trash bin).

      And one more thing: those non-resident payers are keeping your water rates flat. Turn to Page 202 of your viewer. Rates haven’t increased above the present $1.47 per 100 cubic feet since 1999. In real terms, you’ve seen a price cut due to inflation.

      Honestly, Junad, this all took me about 20 minutes to put together from freely available information. For someone that demands the numbers/analysis you sure don’t seem to be willing to live up to your own expectations.

      1. Anonymous – can you answer a few more questions?
        Anonymous – I suspect you come to the council meetings – since you have stated you are not a city employee. Anonymous you seem to have a good working know of the reports –

        I think your points are valid -but I look at the water bill I recieve as one payment – yes I understand they city has broken down water, sewer etc. The city could give the taxpayers back the money in reduced water bills – yet they are not – thus to me this is a tax. I also think you know the residents of other community pay less for the Evanston water than the users here – that has been stated. Anonymous I suspect you can afford your water bill ( I can also) but there are many people here who can not – at one point 10% of the bill were unpaid. The city maybe more aggressive now in collecting – this summer a women died on the 2700 block of greenbay during the heat wave her water had been shut off by the city.

        Anonymous for years I have asked the city to cut – programs and employees – this is well documented – there is plenty to cut that will not effect the basic operation – I do not have any issue with taxes per se. since we have to pay for services – also you are mistaking my view on the $2.5 increase – I have no problem paying for a new bin – but the $2.5 will be added on to the bill forever – since it is really a tax increase!

        You should get a copy of the “Diet” published by the chamber in 1992 – or see me at council and I will get you a copy interestingly enough they call the pension problem a huge burden on the taxpayers that had to be solved – at that time I believe it was about $15 million!

        Anonymous do you know what the $800,000 negative hit in the CAFR for Sherman Ave garage is all about and will it be repeated next year?

        1. A few answers
          “Anonymous – I suspect you come to the council meetings – since you have stated you are not a city employee.”

          I’ve not been to a meeting and I am not a resident. I’m a fixed income analyst for a bank that owns some Evanston bonds.

          “I think your points are valid -but I look at the water bill I recieve as one payment – yes I understand they city has broken down water, sewer etc. The city could give the taxpayers back the money in reduced water bills – yet they are not – thus to me this is a tax.”

          And, you’re wrong. Its not a tax. What $$ would they give back? The water system has very little unrestricted cash in the system. And if they didn’t make the transfers they would have to come up with that money through additional taxes and fees in the general fund. Its not like you’d save money. At least this way you let non-residents pay for those transfers.

          “I also think you know the residents of other community pay less for the Evanston water than the users here – that has been stated. Anonymous I suspect you can afford your water bill ( I can also) but there are many people here who can not – at one point 10% of the bill were unpaid. The city maybe more aggressive now in collecting – this summer a women died on the 2700 block of greenbay during the heat wave her water had been shut off by the city.”

          Rates have been flat for a decade. In real terms, you’re paying less and less. You have nothing to complain about.

          “You should get a copy of the “Diet” published by the chamber in 1992 – or see me at council and I will get you a copy interestingly enough they call the pension problem a huge burden on the taxpayers that had to be solved – at that time I believe it was about $15 million! ”

          I don’t think a 15-year-old document will have much to offer.

          “Anonymous do you know what the $800,000 negative hit in the CAFR for Sherman Ave garage is all about and will it be repeated next year?”

          Its not really $800,000. That figure includes depreciation expense, which is a paper expense and not an actual expenditure of resources. The actual cash loss was only $60k. Hardly anything major.

          1. anonymous – on your answers – more questions
            I do not know what a fixed income analyst does – If you bank holds the city bonds and the situation is getting worst are those bonds losing value? Clearly your bank must own a large amount of bonds if you are taking a interest in this board? Will the old bonds be downgraded in value if the city credit rating has dropped?

            your one answer puzzles me – on the $800,000 on the Sherman ave garage you are stating the operating expenses are off set up the depreciaiton ? – I do not understand how this would work for a government unit – since the city does not pay taxes? If the city loses $ how would depreciation of the garage offset it? Also when the auditor was at the council he made note of the problem on the Sherman ave garage – clearly he would not have made note of a $60,000 loss.

          2. “I do not know what a fixed
            “I do not know what a fixed income analyst does – If you bank holds the city bonds and the situation is getting worst are those bonds losing value? Clearly your bank must own a large amount of bonds if you are taking a interest in this board? Will the old bonds be downgraded in value if the city credit rating has dropped? ”

            Fixed income analysts, among other things, put together and monitor portfolios of bonds. I can’t discuss the value of bonds we hold, but in general this type of rating action won’t have much of an impact. People make these things out to be much bigger than they really are. Ratings alone do not decide values and interest rates.

            “your one answer puzzles me – on the $800,000 on the Sherman ave garage you are stating the operating expenses are off set up the depreciaiton ? – I do not understand how this would work for a government unit – since the city does not pay taxes?”

            Its not about taxes, its about public accounting. From an accounting standpoint, the garage lost approximately $800k, but that figure includes $740k in depreciation expenses (Im recalling from memory, so the numbers are not precise). In public accounting, enterprise systems (water, sewer, electric, parking, etc) set up a depreciation shedule for all capital assets and record a portion of that depreciation each year. They don’t actually pay out the money. When a investor, rating analyst, finance director, etc want to see what the actual cash gain/loss is, they look at the operating performance without depreciation expenses. In the garage’s case, that was only $60k. You then compare that to the system’s unrestricted cash – which was $1 million+. I recall when I made the comparison that the garage could sustain this type of shortfall for 26 years before exhausting current reserves.

            There’s more on depreciation and public accounting here: http://www.accountingcoach.com/online-accounting-course/11Xpg01.html

            Scroll down to the section entitled “Book Depreciation Illustrated”. Its not for tax purposes that depreciation is recorded, its so that analysts can assess the useful life of the system’s assets and use that as a determinant of when (and how much) additional investment may be needed later on.

            “If the city loses $ how would depreciation of the garage offset it? Also when the auditor was at the council he made note of the problem on the Sherman ave garage – clearly he would not have made note of a $60,000 loss.” ”

            I didn’t see the presentation by the auditor, but he shouldn’t have presented it as a $800k loss. Its not. He may have been talking about accounting loss (which would be correct), but should have also shown that cash value loss was minimal.

  3. Recycling Bin Study
    The recycling bin study was conducted in two cherry-picked areas that fairly guaranteed positive results,

    If the Clyde Street Corridor area been used, do we think increases would be seen?

    With great cost, bins can be replaced by carts, and perhaps overall recycling increased. How many of these bins will quickly disappear remains to be seen.
    The education effort necessary to increase recycling bin/cart usage are largely ignored when minority areas with historically poor recycling percentage records are involved.

    A cheaper and more effective possibility may be selective provision of carts or additional bins in certain areas and green/recycling education efforts in other targeted areas.

    D Flash

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