It’s in the bag

Recycling program costs $60,000 annually
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Some residents feel money is being wasted through a local recycling program that costs thousands of dollars. The city of Auburn participates in the “One Big Bin” program in which residents can mix trash and recyclables in their curbside trashcans. The recyclables are then sorted out at the Materials Recovery Facility on Athens Avenue in Lincoln. Materials that can’t be recycled are taken to the Western Regional Sanitary Landfill. Western Placer Waste Management Authority owns the landfill and recovery facility. Residents who prefer to separate their recyclables can sign up for the city’s blue bag recycling program. A monthly charge of 54 cents is already incorporated into all city residents’ solid waste bills for the program, according to John Rowe, general manager of Recology Auburn Placer, which provides the bags for residents. This charge doesn’t cover the cost of the bags, Rowe said. Rowe said Recology spends $60,000 a year on blue bags for the city of Auburn. There are 25 bags on each roll delivered to residents. It is unclear how many bags are delivered to customers each year. Auburn resident Linda Brown, who lives on Toyon Drive, said she recently received three rolls of blue bags in one week, and already has seven rolls stashed in her closet. She has given away 10 rolls in the last year. “I only use (the bags) sometimes,” Brown said. “I use maybe, at most, a roll a year.” Brown said she isn’t sure why she is receiving the bags when she never signed up to take part in the program. “I have never asked for one bag ever,” Brown said. “Nor have I called them and told them not to (deliver them).” Brown said because she has so many bags, she’s been using them to hold items other than recyclables. Rowe said bags are delivered on a quarterly basis, and those who want to receive them have to call Recology. Rowe said in Brown’s case, a past homeowner may have requested to be put on the list, and the service might never have been canceled. Anyone who currently receives bags and wants to cut back on the number of rolls or cancel the service can call Recology at (530) 885-3735. Residents can also call and request extra rolls, Rowe said. The 54-cent charge will remain on residents’ bills when they are taken off the blue bag list. Auburn City Council made the decision for the charge to be permanent when the blue bag program began, Rowe said. Brown said she is concerned about the budget for the bags, especially because of her extra rolls and the rolls she sometimes sees lying in the street in her neighborhood. “I’m sure the money could be much better used,” she said. “Basically, I’m just concerned with the waste of it all.” Megan Siren, recycling coordinator for the city of Auburn, said the bags are processed separately when they arrive at the Materials Recovery Facility. Rowe said the actual bags themselves are not currently being recycled, but are being added to the landfill because there is no market for that type of blue-colored clear plastic. “That can fluctuate,” Rowe said. “There was a time when there was a market, but there isn’t currently. I know they are looking at trying to find a place for colored, clear bags.” Rowe said it’s necessary to have a color for the bags because that makes them easily identifiable at the Materials Recovery Facility. In 2009 the Placer County Grand Jury suggested Auburn discontinue the blue bag program because its benefits are marginal after recyclables are sorted out of trashcans. In an Aug. 26, 2009 response letter, the city stated it would continue the program. “The city of Auburn believes that the foundation of a successful education and environmental stewardship program is public involvement,” the letter states. “The blue bag recycling program is used as a valuable educational tool to our citizens.” Auburn resident Andrea Rosenthal, who lives on Gossonia Park, said she used to receive more bags than she could fill. “I requested they (deliver the bags) twice a year, and since then it’s been fine,” Rosenthal said. “I had so many blue bags, I was giving them to neighbors.” Rosenthal said while she enjoys using the bags to separate her recyclables, she never requested to have them delivered. Rosenthal said she thinks cutting back on the number of bag deliveries in an effort to save funds would be a good idea. “I would definitely be in favor of them cutting back on that,” she said. Reach Bridget Jones at