County residents seeing red over blue cart recycling plan

{A href=""}BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Thousands of Kern County residents could be included in a new mandatory recycling program. Some say they don't want to pay an additional fee to the county, and they don't want to lose the money they get from recycling on their own.

"I don't want to be forced into doing it," one man told Eyewitness News. The Rosedale area man didn't want to be identified.

That's part of the county in metropolitan Bakersfield, where officials hope to launch what they call a "universal collection area."

Currently, the county has voluntary curbside recycling for residents in these areas. Officials say about 2,300 households use the current "blue cart" program, and it recycles about 800 tons a year.

But, why do they want all county residents in this area in the program?

"The short answer is, we need more recycling," county Waste Management director Doug Landon said. He said the county needs more recycling, because the state has upped their requirements for keeping waste out of landfills.

The state originally required counties and cities to recycle 50 percent of their waste, but Landon said that will rise to 75 percent by 2020. The county predicts under its proposal there would be an additional 8,000 tons of recycling.

In the last week or so, affected residents started getting notices about the plan, including the fees they'd be charged on their property taxes. For the typical house that would be $245.64 a year.

But, Landon said that's the total proposed charge for all waste disposal services: the brown garbage bin, the green bin for yard waste and a new recycling bin.

"The additional charge for the blue cart service to the existing services is about $36," Landon said.

Another county resident said that's not a lot to pay, but he still has concerns.

"It's not a great expense," Steve Hill told Eyewitness News. "But there's a lot of people on fixed incomes that don't need any additional expense."

He also said many people don't want to give up what they can earn by recycling things like bottles and cans themselves.

Landon said county residents could still do that, but it would make sense to put other recycling materials into the county program blue bins. Things like cardboard boxes and junk mail aren't often taken to recycle centers, but the county would make use of those in their bigger operation.

"That really maximizes, increases, the total amount of recycling that's getting done," Landon said.

Other residents complain they don't want another bin next to the house or in the back yard. And some argue storing sticky bottles and cans in a blue bin for two weeks will be messy and smelly.

Landon said environmental health officials have determined it's safe and appropriate to keep recycle materials for two weeks. That's how often the blue carts would be picked up, according to the county.

The brown and green bins would still be picked up every week. That's what the county voluntary program does now, and it's the same as Bakersfield's program.

The city also started with a curbside recycling program that residents could sign up for, and they are now expanding that to all city residents.

Under the county plan, the new fee would be included on residents' property tax bill. That would be another change for some people, and the notices attempt to explain that.

"If you presently have garbage collection services but have not previously been included in the tax roll billing process, this proposed fee would replace the amount you currently pay the garbage collection company," the notice reads.

One more complaint from some residents is that the protest hearing for the recycling proposal will be on Nov. 13 at 2 p.m.

Some argue that's a tough time for people to show up at a meeting. However, on Thursday, Landon told Eyewitness News an evening public meeting will be set up sometime during the week of Oct. 22.

Some 43,000 county households could be included in the new plan. Some residents remain unconvinced about the proposal, but Landon says it would help the county be more responsible and avoid stiff state fines if it missed the tougher state requirements.

"The penalty that's always been hanging over each jurisdiction's head is $10,000 a day," Landon said. "Certainly one of our goals is to meet state regulations. But another goal is to be as environmentally responsible as possible."