Can-tastic view

Ashland residents Monday began receiving the first of 6,000 new lidded, rolling trash cans from Recology Ashland Sanitary Service after a city study showed they would be safer, cheaper and reduce strain on trash collectors.

Customers will not be charged extra for the new cans, said Recology General Manager Steve DiFabion.

The new year also brings a $5 monthly fee for nonsubscribers who purchase $8.40 stickers they can use anytime they have trash that needs to be picked up. Such users were being subsidized by subscribers and the new system should eliminate that "unfair" difference, he said.

The switch to new bins means lots of customers will want to get rid of their old personal bins. They may leave them at the curb with a note that they want them hauled away to the landfill, which will be done at no charge, says DiFabion.

They're also welcome to clean them out and reuse them for storage or bring them to the next plastics roundup recycling event, says Risa Buck, waste zero specialist. Recology is unable to properly clean the bins, dispose of the water waste and store the bins until the next recycling event, she says.

Recology staff has been assembling the new cans at its transfer station on North Valley View and will be dropping them off over the next two weeks, DiFabion says. The garbage cans are 32 gallons.

The bins are not critter-proof. They have flip lids and can be knocked over by hungry raccoons.

The bins are designed for a new automated collection system that means waste handlers won't have to heft trash cans into trucks, says DiFabion, so this should virtually eliminate many "very expensive and tragic" injuries. They are also safer for customers, who may roll instead of lift them to curbs.

The city's independent study said the new changes would help bring rate stability and eliminate large fee increases for Recology, which is allowed to adjust fees according to the Consumer Price Index and rates paid for recycled materials, he said.

Industrywide, the amount of recycling is going up and the amount of trash is going down, resulting in less being paid for recycling.

"A few years ago, recycling was a very strong market, but it's very weak now," says DiFabion. "We continue to lose money on recycling. We have to transport it to Grants Pass for sorting and we lose $6,000 a month just transporting it. It's not a money-making operation."

Money lost on recycling must be picked up by trash fees, he notes.

However, if recycling prices rebound, he says, it's in Recology's contract with the city that it would lower trash fees correspondingly.

The city for 23 years has operated the Ashland Recycling Center on Water Street, which handles 16 percent of the recycling in town and costs $135,000 a year. The City Council authorized a $1.60 monthly fee on garbage bills for six months while it studies the center's policies and direction.

Recology is part of a for-profit chain in California and the Northwest, based in San Francisco. It is owned by 2,500 employees, including 30 with Ashland Recology.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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