Column: Lewisville reps should step up for ratepayers’ trashed recycling

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Waste Management staff members, who were eventually fired, mishandled 18 percent of Lewisville recyclables by throwing them away from 2014 to January 2016. (Photo by Leopold Knopp)

For 21 months, from May of 2014 to January of this year, about 19 percent of the recyclables picked up from homes in Lewisville and other North Texas communities were simply dumped in the landfill.

To its credit, Waste Management, hauler for garbage and recyclables for the city, found and reported the error on its own. The company fired the employees responsible.

In Lewisville, 18 percent of our city’s recyclables were mishandled. The company settled with the city for $60,332— about what the city would have earned from the value of the recyclables if they had been taken to the processor.

The city’s treasury is made whole, but the city has so far failed to get remuneration for its approximately 21,000 utility ratepayers.
Lewisville residents pay a garbage collection rate each month that includes a cost for recycling pickup.

We pay the fee and put in the effort to separate out recyclables to reduce our impact on the environment. It lengthens the life of the landfill and reduces the amount of natural resources required to produce the goods that we consume.

City spokesperson James Kunke said the city was the only party that lost money with the issue, and that any refunds to ratepayers would be problematic because the city has no way to know who participates in recycling.

I disagree.

The ratepayers of Lewisville were charged for a service, and only received about 82 percent of it.

That value can be translated to dollars. It should be simple to examine the city’s records to determine who paid the fees over the course of the 21 months of the problem.

The Lewisville Texan Journal asked the city what portion of the garbage bill was attributable to recycling, but did not receive an answer prior to press time.

In May of 2014, when the problem started, an extra recycling container cost residents $2.10 per month. The city currently collects $5 per month for an extra recycling bin. Those numbers, minus some value for container rental might be an indicator of what that portion of our service is worth.

A quick back-of-the- envelope calculation, based on recycling being worth between $1 and $5 per month per ratepayer, 21 months of problems, and about 18 percent of Lewisville’s recycling going to the landfill would make for a refund between $3.78 and $18.90 for the average utility customer, costing Waste Management somewhere between $78,380 and $396,900.

It’s not a huge amount to any given resident, but it would still be the right thing to do. Credit the utility bills of those residents who paid for recycling during that period.

The city could even give customers the option to have that credit donated on their behalf to an environmental organization like Keep Lewisville Beautiful or contributed to an environmental project that might offset some of the harm done.

Lisa Weaver, the city’s sustainability manager, said that the city was looking at all options, including those for the ratepayers. “This isn’t going to be a quick fix; it’s something that we want to give careful consideration to and make the right decisions on.”

Waste Management is a decent company that is generally a good corporate citizen for Lewisville. The City of Lewisville should ask for the partial refund for its ratepayers, and give Waste Management the chance to make it right.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder why city government realized Waste Management owned them money, but it never occurred to them to demand money for the citizenry. Who is the “city” really, if not its citizenry? Why do they see themselves as a separate entity from individual citizens, who through our elected representatives, hire them to be administrators of our interests?

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