Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ecology Center Likely to Keep Berkeley Recycling Contract

By Judith Scherr
Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 2:23 PM

After concerted community pressure, it looks like Berkeley's recycling contract will stay with the Ecology Center, a 42-year old city institution. “The turn out [at the March 8 council meeting] helped to turn the tide,” said Ecology Center Executive Director Martin Bourque, underscoring that the decision is yet to be made.

The city manager’s recommendations will be available Thursday; the city council will discuss them March 29. “The Ecology Center... is working with staff,” said City Manager Phil Kamlarz. “We’re re-negotiating with one-person trucks” for recycling.

A consultant had recommended that the city save money by giving the recycling contract to the city’s Public Works Department. The city’s Service Employees International Union workers liked the idea, but dozens of community members showed up to the March 8 council meeting to counter city workers and voice their dissent.

Bourque said the Ecology Center recycling program will likely have to go to a one-person/one truck operation — except for routes in narrow, windy streets where a one-person operation isn’t possible. That means the center will have to purchase two additional trucks, he said.

Bourque said the program is understaffed now, so the new configuration will likely not lead to layoffs.

The big problem the city needs to deal with is the recycling-garbage rate structure, which is based on the size of the garbage cans, Bourque said. Residents use smaller cans when they recycle more, but the city gets less money from the smaller cans.

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