Provo city is looking into saving money by taking over recycling pick-up responsibilities. However, this will cost residents $1 more. (Photo courtesy provo.org)
Provo city has approved a plan where they will take over recycling for the city. This will cost residents $1 more. (Photo courtesy provo.org)

Provo’s city council has unanimously OK’d spending up to $612,000 to buy new recycling containers for the city to take over the program and — maybe — make it weekly. But the council hasn’t given final approval to Provo-run recycling and weekly pickup — that will happen later when the city’s annual budget is passed before the end of June.

Provo’s four-year contract with Republic Services ends on July 31, and after researching all its options, the city discovered it could save about $1 million over seven years if it takes over, Provo public works director David Decker told the city council last month. The city will need to buy 12,000 new recycling cans (they’ll have a 10-year warranty and RFID tags for easy data collection), one new truck (it already has a spare sanitation truck that can switch to recycling) and hire two new drivers.

Wayne Parker, Provo chief administrative officer, said the city has put out a request for proposals for the new cans and those are due later this week. A representative of Republic Services on Tuesday told the council that if Provo bought the cans currently in use in Provo and had the RFID tags added, it could save $127,000 over buying new bins.

The $612,000 is coming from the Sanitation Fund balance.

Though the vote on Tuesday was all about the cans, council members wanted to talk about the future of recycling costs to residents. Changing to weekly pickups will reduce confusion and add $1 per month to residents’ utility bills.

Councilman David Sewell said he’d rather see the city move in the opposite direction, and reduce the cost of recycling. He pointed to Salt Lake’s recycling program, which is free, though that city charges more for regular garbage cans.

“The Salt Lake model has some things that seem very enticing from the cost incentive,” said Greg Beckstrom, Provo’s public services director. But it’s 100 percent mandatory, and Provo now has an opt-out recycling program.

City staff hasn’t brought up changing the rate structure because it wanted to compare apples to apples with the current service, Beckstrom said. But he expects to come back to the council within the next year to discuss that.

Parker said the department is open to talking about changing the rate structure and would be willing to meet with any group the council put together to discuss the issue.

UPDATE: A Republic Services rep says the bins currently in use in Provo are under a 10-year warranty. If the city opts to buy the existing cans, it would save $152,000 over buying new ones.  (Updated May 7 at 4 p.m.)

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