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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

February 19, 2010

BERKELEY VICTIM OF OWN SUCCESS IN RECYLING

Berkeley Voice - Berkeley's environmentally conscious citizens who reduce, reuse and recycle are behind a $4 million budget deficit in the city's refuse department. The amount of trash being picked up curbside and the amount of construction trash going in to the city's transfer station have fallen drastically in the past year, along with revenue the city collects from them.

Leaders are considering serious measures, including reducing trash pickup to every other week, a second rate increase in a year, or both.

The refuse department's deficit is the largest part of a $14 million shortfall in the city as a whole for the fiscal year that ends in June.

"Interesting issue is an understatement," said city Budget Manager Tracy Vesely. "Someone else already said it, but it's true: We're a victim of our own success."

Berkeley only charges residents to haul away their trash, but not their recycling and composting. Residents have been so diligent about reducing the amount of trash that goes to landfills by separating paper, cans and plastic and food scraps and yard waste that they now produce less trash and are using smaller trash cans.

Because the city charges trash pickup based on the size of can at the curb, revenues have fallen as customers have asked for smaller containers. But labor costs are still the same no matter what size can people use.

The city is brainstorming a variety of ideas to bring in more money or reduce costs.

Rate increases are not being ruled out, even though rates went up 20 percent for curbside trash pickup in August and transfer station entrance fees went up 10 percent. . .

"We're looking at the legality of reducing pickups, that's one idea, but there are certain health and safety issues involved with that," Vesely said.

Another idea is to charge for picking up recyclables and composting, she said. No other city she knows of does that.


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