CHAMPAIGN — City council members on Tuesday night decided they want a new curbside recycling pickup program but stopped short of outlining the details, while a local waste hauler told them, "you fully don't realize what you're getting in to."
Council members had a lot of ideas how to deal with the garbage that is produced by residents of homes with four or fewer units, but they ultimately decided that it will take more conversations to move forward with any of them.
That category of residences is the last remaining that does not have a specific curbside recycling pickup program after a program for multifamily buildings began at the end of 2010. And just like the multifamily program, homeowners would be required to pay a fee for the service.
"I think the bottom line is, obviously, this isn't in the budget now, we need money to do it," administrative services manager Elizabeth Hannan told members before they voted to pigeonhole the issue.
Buying recycling carts to give to homeowners alone would cost nearly $1 million, and those would have to be bought regardless of which kind of program council members might have chosen Tuesday night.
Depending on how aggressive a program they'd like to pursue, residents would end up paying anywhere between $1 and $4 monthly.
Right now, private haulers provide recycling pickup in Champaign. Their licenses require them to include it when a customer buys waste-hauling services.
Cindy Eaglen, owner of Illini Recycling, said city officials didn't fully understand the issue. Further, she told them, they would be cutting local businesses out of the market.
"I want you to fully understand, when you talk about expanding your recycling to match Urbana's program, it is not something that is able to include your local haulers, your businesses here," Eaglen said.
She estimates a city-mandated program would cut her revenues by 12 percent.
"You're basically telling me that you're now ready to take that (part of the business) over and we're going to lose that part of our income," she said.
The council's vote Tuesday did not kill the issue. Most members said they favor a city-mandated recycling program but were not ready to decide on the specifics Tuesday night.
In fact, member Tom Bruno said the current method for homes with four or fewer units is "illogical," and the city has to re-evaluate it. About 20,000 households and 40,000 residents fall into the category.
Council member Michael La Due said he has wanted such a program for a long time.
"This needs to stay on the burner," he said. "Just on relatively low heat."