The City of Brownwood may soon be joining other municipalities in the 21st century with a city-wide mandated recycling program. Stakeholders feel that voluntary recycling isn’t making the desired impact, if any impact whatsoever, and something must be done to maintain a sustainable Brownwood. Area leaders are discussing the option to add recycling bins to each residence, as well as a ban on plastic bags at all retailers, to be phased in by 2015. Contractors would also be required to begin recycling under the program.
All residents would receive, free of charge, a 75 gallon blue recycle bin with a yellow lid. The recycling bins will be used for placement of glass, plastics, aluminium, and paper/cardboard according to Luis Jenkins, director of Brown County Waste Management Systems, “we felt that the yellow lid would help people remember that this is the recycle container, do not put your trash in this one.” Placing trash in the recycle bin could lead to fines added Jenkins, “recycling is no joking matter, placing trash in the recycle bin requires our workers to spend time sorting through, and that time costs the taxpayers money, so anytime trash is placed in the recycle bin, the owner will receive a $25 fine.”
The cost of the program will be partially absorbed by reducing the trash pick up schedule from twice a week to once a week. Jenkins stated that most customers do not fill their current trash bin all the way, so it should not be a problem for the majority of customers, “you’ll be going from twice a week trash pick up to once a week trash pick up, but you’ll also get recycling. If we kept the twice a week pick up, your monthly charge would increase by about $12 to add in the recycling.” Jenkins went on to explain that with the reduction to one pick up per week, customers should only see an increase of about $6 on their monthly bill.
Once the new program is implemented, contractors will be responsible for purchasing a 6,000 gallon recycling container that must be kept on site at all major projects. Contractors will be expected to recycle just as residents do, and since they are professionals, they will be held to higher standards. “If we find a contractor violating our recycling program, we will enact a $100 fee per violation,” added Jenkins. “We can not sustain the current rate at which we are filling our landfill, something has to be done. It costs millions of dollars ($2.2million according to KTXS) to open up a new pit, maintain EPA standards, and monitor soil seepage to insure the plastic liners aren’t compromised. Even the smallest tear from a shard of glass can contaminate groundwater supplies.” Brown County was once home to an open landfill which cost substantially less to operate, but regulations changed and the city of Brownwood adjusted accordingly.
Jenkins also addressed property owners who neglect the environment. “We fully plan to invoke eminent domain laws to seize property that has been neglected and is deemed to be a clear and present risk to environmental integrity. We will partner with code enforcement, EPA, TCEQ, and implement increased drone sweeps. This will allow us to monitor eyesores and follow through accordingly. People think that just because they don’t live in an incorporated area they can accumulate all sorts of refuse without consequences, but they need to understand that the County of Brown has authority to force their hands, so to speak.”
Jenkins stated his future desire to set up bio-diesel stations for waste oil recycling. “We could be 100% free from OPEC and gasoline with the amount of cooking oil this town uses. Ideally, i’d like to retrofit city vehicles to run on bio-diesel, but our trash trucks would likely have to run on a combination of bio-diesel and compressed natural gas to achieve optimal horsepower and torque levels. The taquerías alone would supply enough grease to power all City of Brownwood vehicles, and the Red Wagon could easily power 3 or 4 Police Interceptor Tahoes. “Maybe if people begin associating the smell of Crisco with hard time, they’ll start eating healthier” said Jenkins, laughing.
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