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Recycling

Troy West (right) and David Romo sort cardboard, glass, plastic, aluminum and trash from paper in December at Mid-America Recycling in downtown Lincoln.

The Republican majority of the City Council passed a watered-down version of Mayor Chris Beutler's proposed recycling ordinance Monday.

It retains a requirement that waste haulers offer curbside recycling but eliminates the landfill ban on cardboard and paper that supporters say is crucial to increase the recycling rate.

“Emasculate, eviscerate,” were the words Councilwoman Jane Raybould, a Democrat, used to describe the successful Republican version of the recycling ordinance.

But Councilman Trent Fellers, a Republican and author of the recycling ordinance without the ban, said his proposal “moves the city forward in recycling.”

It retains the requirement that waste haulers offer curbside recycling, and that they give information to the city on the number of customers and the pounds of material diverted from the landfill.

“It enhances our ability to collect data on recycling. I don’t appreciate it as being framed as education only. There is a lot more here than is being portrayed,” he said.

However, a ban on cardboard and paper in the landfill is what drives a higher recycling rate, said Jon Carlson, an aide to Beutler.

Without the ban, you lose the effectiveness of the ordinance, said Carlson.

Education, without any diversion plan, leads to only a 1 to 3 percent increase in recycling, he said. But when you ban items from the landfill the recycling rate could be doubled, from the current 22 percent to 44 percent, he said.

Education without the ban is like educating a baker on how to bake without giving him an oven, said Raybould.

“This is pretty much half-baked. You are not giving them all the tools they need," she said of Fellers' plan.

Without the ban, Lincoln will also likely lose two recycling grants from the state, one for $114,000 to buy more containers for the city’s free drop-off sites and another, for $225,000, to help educate Lincoln residents about the ban, said Donna Garden, assistant director of Public Works and Utilities.

Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm, a Republican, said she prefers the carrot approach to the stick. Fellers’ version of the recycling ordinance encourages recycling without making it mandatory, she said.

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It is logical and reasonable, she said.

Councilman Jon Camp, a Republican, said the proposal by Beutler, which included the ban on cardboard and paper, had huge unintended consequences, including higher costs for homeowners.

“I don’t want the heavy hand of government on top of us.” Camp said.

“I like recycling and I love liberty,” said Councilman Roy Christensen, a Republican. Christensen said he bought his wife a baby grand piano so she would agree to recycle.

But Christensen said his commitment to liberty goes further. And he suggested everyone who recycles should convince one neighbor to recycle.

“That would double the rate. We can do this without mandates,” he said.

“We are disappointed," mayoral aide Rick Hoppe said after the meeting. "The council’s actions made the recycling ordinance totally ineffective and even worse, it will cost $500,000 for almost no progress on the recycling rate. It is not progress and those who advocated for greater recycling will be disappointed.”

During the meeting, Democrats pointed to the strong, passionate support for recycling seen at the public hearing a week ago and the savings involved in lengthening the life of the landfill.

The Democrats unsuccessfully argued for a two-week delay to get problems raised by real estate agents and landlords ironed out. They also suggested a two-week delay on Fellers' proposal to give interested people in the community a chance to respond.

“We generally always agree to an extension even if it might not change our vote,” said Carl Eskridge, a Democrat, who pointed out he had learned of Fellers’ proposal in an email sent Monday morning.

When it became clear the no-ban version would pass, council chairwoman Leirion Gaylor Baird, a Democrat, said she wanted to thank the people who worked on the proposal and those who came out in support of the recycling ordinance at last week’s public hearing.

“That is not what we are passing today. We are passing a much more limited version of Recycle Lincoln,” she said.

“It is minimal progress and minimal gain. I hope we can get back on track in the future,” she said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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