July 31, 2014

Elyria
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TALKING TRASH: In Lorain

It used to be you could forget about those black bags once you threw them on the tree lawn. Now, all people in Lorain can talk about is their trash.

As Council prepares for another vote on the county-backed “pay as you throw” trash program, some residents are anxiously wondering how they will discard their waste in the near future.

Council rejected the volume-based trash proposal in a 6-to-3 vote earlier this month, but at the urging of the county Solid Waste Policy Committee, which helped devise the “pay as you throw” plan, Council will revisit the topic at the end of the month.

As the county`s largest city, the policy committee needs Lorain`s approval to implement “pay as you throw” countywide.

The purpose is to get people to recycle more by limiting the amount of garbage they throw away. Ways of doing this include making residents throw away all their trash into one bin and recyclables into another bin provided by the county or making residents purchase stickers they would place on their trash like stamps.

Allied Waste, the county`s trash collection company, favors the use of bins because the company can use specialized trucks with robotic arms to lift the bins and heave the trash into the truck. Only one employee is needed to operate a truck, which will save the company money.

Council members who voted against the plan said they didn`t feel it would work in Lorain, mostly because of fears that the city`s litter problem would get worse with people unwilling to pay extra to throw away their garbage and the fact that there`s no guarantee that costs to residents would decrease under the plan. Concerns were also raised about whether the city`s large elderly population would be able to handle the large bins.

Many Lorain residents haven`t been convinced of the plan`s merits either.
Millie Neal, 59, and Tammie Kerns, 35, are neighbors who live in central Lorain and have been discussing their garbage frequently over the past few weeks. They said they`re adamantly against the proposal.

Kerns has a husband and six children and said she won`t have the time to recycle and definitely won`t have the money to pay for extra garbage.

“I take my husband to work at 5:30 a.m. and then get everyone off to school. By the time I clean the house and get dinner ready, I don`t have time to sort plastics from paper. It isn`t going to happen,” Kerns said.

Neal agreed. She said people who don`t recycle likely won`t get on board, and instead will find ways around paying extra. She said the program will be especially difficult for people on a fixed income, who purchase lots of packaged items, like prepared foods and products from wholesale clubs.

“The recycling program hasn`t worked as it is, so why would this,” she said. “I`ll just buy a trash compactor and stuff everything in those bins.”

If Lorain again casts a no vote, the city will lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in recycling grant money. That`s because communities who adopt the plan will no longer have to match recycling grant funds to receive them. Lorain currently receives $225,000 a year in grants.

Lorain doesn`t even have to fully implement the plan. If the city does a two-year pilot program, forcing 900 homes of Council`s choosing to use the new system, it will receive an extra $25,000 each year for those two years in addition to a one-time incentive bonus of $150,000.

If the city expands the pilot project by another 900 homes for another two years, it will continue to receive the extra $25,000 annually plus another one-time payment of $150,000.

After that it has no obligation to keep the program going and will continue to receive its annual $225,000 grant, even if it drops “pay as you throw.”

Julia Ortega, 57, has six children living with her on the south side and wonders how the plan will work in the winter.

“If we just have a blizzard, I don`t want to haul that bin down my driveway,” she said. “And what about older people? What are they going to do?”

As for the pilot program, Ortega said it would be unfair to force even a small population to use the plan.

But trash disposal isn`t her only concern, she said. Ortega is a union member and worries about the loss of jobs that will come with having only one employee picking up trash. Currently, Allied Waste uses at least two trash collectors on most routes.

Dave Kidder, spokesman for Allied Waste, has said the plan could mean more jobs down the road because if people start to recycle more, he`ll need to hire more employees to sort and do other things related to processing the recyclables.

Damian Strauser, who lives in the Camden Village subdivision on the far west side, said there`s no guarantee that more people will need to be hired.

“Nobody has a crystal ball. How do they know?” the 31-year-old said.

Strauser is also a landlord with a four-unit apartment building on West 9th Street and said the plan will create difficulties for people in his position.

“What do I do when I have to evict someone, which happens quite a bit? Right now I put all their stuff on the tree lawn. What do I do now?” he said.

Dawn Smith, a mother of two living on the eastside, said she has seen proof that the proposal won`t work. She said there is a similar plan in place in southern Georgia, but people there simply stuff so much trash into the provided bins that garbage blows off and onto the street.

“For the price we pay (already in trash bills), you`d think they could let us throw away whatever we want,” Smith said.

But not everyone is against the plan. Deanna Baker, 42, is a renter in central Lorain who said she supports the plan because it will make people think twice about what they throw away.

“Maybe this will get more people to give their couches and things to charities instead of throwing them away,” she said.

Linda Rawlings, 56, is retired and lives with her husband on the far west side.

The plan won`t impact her, she said, because she only throws away one or two small bags as it is. Plus, she recycles already.

“It`s a good rule. I wish everyone would recycle. And I give all my furniture items to the Lorain Furniture Bank anyway, so hopefully more people will do the same,” she said.

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com.