Garbage collection fees in Santa Monica will go up 26% next month to keep public refuse operations out of the red and to pay for improvements in the city's recycling program.
The rate increase, approved unanimously by the Santa Monica City Council Tuesday evening, will take effect July 1 and bring in about $1.5 million in additional revenue. About one-third of the funds will be earmarked for Santa Monica's recycling program.
City figures show that residents and businesses recycle about 9.5% of their solid waste. Officials hope to bring the rate up to 25% in the next four years by making recycling more convenient and financially rewarding.
Under a new program that will first be tested in areas of single-family homes starting in March, 1990, residents will be charged according to how much non-recyclable solid waste they generate. The more they recycle glass, cans and metals, newspaper, white paper, motor oil and plastic beverage containers, the less they will pay in collection fees.
To start the pilot program, the city will issue standardized refuse containers in different colors for recyclable and non-recyclable waste. Residents will decide in advance how many containers of each type they need and will be billed accordingly.
The city says it needs about $961,000 to buy automated collection trucks, standardized garbage cans and customized recycling containers for apartment buildings.
"We're not getting enough participation and enough recycling in the multifamily areas," said Stan Scholl, director of general services. "We're going to have to do some new things in order to make recycling more convenient."
City figures show that about 80% of Santa Monica dwelling units are in multifamily buildings.
The program also calls for setting up an additional 20 public drop-off spots throughout the city and includes a $40,000 study to see whether a municipal composting program is feasible. Officials say recycling yard cuttings could divert up to 20% of Santa Monica's solid waste.
The city also plans to hire a full-time marketing analyst to promote the idea of recycling among residents and will spend $70,000 over the next two years on publicity through mailings, brochures and advertising.
All of the money generated by the 26% fee increase will go into the city's Refuse Fund, which serves all Santa Monica residents and about half of the commercial and industrial establishments. City staff said $500,000 will help pay for regular operations, such as street sweeping, hazardous materials centers and alley cleanup. Because of inflation and higher bills for workers compensation insurance, officials said the operation was in danger of losing money.
Although the council approved the fee increase and using part of the money for the recycling program, some details of how the program will work must be studied further and face another council vote later in the year.
Starting July 1, annual fees for single-family homes will be $14.63, and the rates for apartment buildings will be between $6.22 and $7.40 per apartment. This fee schedule would be revised if the recycling program is implemented.
The city now hauls about 96,000 tons of solid waste each year to landfills located near Saugus, north of the San Fernando Valley.