West Allis -- It's official. West Allis will start using carts instead of bags for recycling, but aldermen must still decide whether residents will pay all, some or none of the $1.1 million cost of the carts.
They are estimated to cost about $48 each. For months, city officials have considered switching from recycling bags to the carts. Last week, the common council voted to go ahead.
"The feedback I've gotten has all been positive," said Alderman Kevin Haass, "It makes recycling easier, more convenient and it keeps recyclables from blowing down the street."
No longer will papers have to be separated from glass and plastics that are placed in plastic recycling bags.
The recycling carts are for homes, duplexes, small apartment buildings and an any condominiums that have city trash service. Larger apartment buildings and condominium complexes have their own recycling arrangements, as do businesses.
Carts coming soon
The city will start with the carts either in January or next spring.
Although the initial plan is for the carts to arrive at homes late this year, Public Works Director Michael Lewis said he will ask the common council if the carts could be delivered in spring, if that can be arranged.
"At the time they deliver, if we have 18 inches of snow out there it would create all kinds of havoc," he said. The current contractor is likely to agree to extending the city's contract that expires at the end of the year, Lewis said.
"They've been a very, very good contractor for the city," he said.
The recycling carts will be 96 gallons, about the same size as the trash carts the city sells. Knowing that some residents will have trouble finding room for a 96-gallon cart, the city will buy a few smaller 64-gallon carts, he said. City officials don't foresee many space problems because people already have to find space for the recycling bags and paper.
But everyone will get the 96-gallon cart first.
"I think people will be surprised how quickly that thing fills up," Lewis said. That's because recycling will be so easy that residents will recycle more, he said.
"It's as easy as it can possibly be," Lewis said, with all recyclables mixed together.
He has a family of three and said, "I'll be filling that thing up."
Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, that both contain congested neighborhoods, have already gone to recycling carts, Lewis noted.
"I think people will find a spot on their property," he said.
Because recycling will be so much easier, city officials expect people will recycle more and that will save the city thousands of dollars in landfill fees. Recyclables tossed into the regular trash increase the amount of trash going to the landfill where the city pays to dispose of it.
"It will save the city several hundred thousand dollars a year," said Alderman Tom Lajsic.
Although West Allis residents have used the plastic bags for many years, officials predicted acceptance for the most part.
"There will probably be a mixed reaction," Lajsic said.
"I know the majority of people want them," said Michael Czaplewski. He met a lot of people while running for re-election this year and he asked all of them what they thought.
"I was asking everybody I ran into," he said. A lot of older people who don't have a lot of recyclables are happy with the bags, he said. But younger people and some landlords like the carts, he said. They like being able to throw all recyclables together, Czaplewski said. His district is on the city's east side that includes areas where homes are close together.
Who will pay?
As chairman of the administration and finance committee, Haass said his committee will soon take up the question of paying for the carts. The city has enough money in its utility fund, but there are worries about whether the fund could recover sufficiently after taking $1.1 million out.
However, Haass said there is probably strong support on the council for making the carts free to residents or charging very little for the carts. If the city does save on tipping fees at the landfill, it could use the savings to replenish the fund, Haass said.
"Payment could be realized through savings," Haass said.