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LAS CRUCES CITY COUNCIL

Council to weigh rate hike for trash

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The Las Cruces City Council will vote at its March 16 regular meeting on a proposed $2 rate increase in city residential solid waste service. The increase was proposed by a volunteer advisory group that held public meetings last fall.

The current rate for about 90 percent of the city’s approximately 33,000 residential users is $13.25 a month for a 96-gallon container. That rate would increase $2 a month to $15.25 under a proposal from the city’s Utilities Department.

Utilities Director Jorge Garcia said the increase would be the first in five years for solid waste service.

City utilities operate as an enterprise fund not funded by tax dollars and must generate enough funding through monthly billing to pay the full cost of providing service.

It costs about $13.7 million a year to provide solid-waste service, Garcia said, but the department is only collecting about $12.5 million in revenues. The rate increase, if approved, will generate the additional $1.3 million annually needed “to continue to invest in infrastructure,” Garcia said.

The additional funding is needed primarily for vehicle replacement, Garcia said, adding that the department has 34 solid-waste vehicles on the road at any given time, and some cost about $250,000 to replace.

To mitigate a price increase, residents can call LCU customer service at 575-541-2111 and ask staff to change the size of their trash containers from 96 gallons to 64 gallons, Garcia said. The monthly service charge for a 64-gallon container, the charge for which will be $13.25 a month under the proposed rate change.

For more information, email ucag@las-cruces.org or visit www.las-cruces.org and search UCAG.

Recycling options on the table citywide

“It’s pretty bleak,” South Central Solid Waste Authority (SCSWA) Director Patrick Peck told the Las Cruces City Council at its Feb. 10 work session, regarding the future of recycling in Las Cruces.

China had consumed more than half the world’s sorted recyclable products until it instituted new environmental policies in the summer of 2018, Peck said.

“China was the world’s trash bin,” he said, adding that since no other nation has stepped in to fill that void, the costs of recycling in Las Cruces and across the country have increased dramatically.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in 25 years in the recycling market,” he said. “If recycling is going to survive … we have to figure out a way to build equity within our program.”

Steps to be taken in Las Cruces could include developing “a clear and concise message” to the public about how and what to recycle, Peck said. It could also include developing what he called a “sustainable, circular economy” for recycled products like the one it now has for glass, which he said customers collect, the city crushes and returns to the public for its use. That could be expanded to include tires (tens of thousands are recycled each year) that could be turned into crumb rubber and used for local street repair.

Peck, who is past president of the New Mexico Recycling Coalition, said the city should also consider a ban on plastic bags and revise its solid-waste ordinance to include the composting of food waste, which accounts for 42 percent of the waste stream.

SCSWA manages garbage collection and recycling for the city, and contracts with Friedman Recycling for curbside collection of recyclables, as well as sorting and selling recycled materials. SCSWA’s recycling program was recognized as the nation’s best in 2017 by the National Recycling Coalition.

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