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Shreveport should swap recycling for garbage fee

How about a trade, Shreveport’s recycling fee for a solid waste collection fee?

Shreveport’s City Council looks poised to set up procedures at tomorrow’s meeting to collect a garbage fee, after hashing out details at today’s work session. The proposed $7 a month will provide enough to provide most funding for the operation, which would go into an enterprise fund similar to that for water provision, and present an opportunity to give sanitation workers a pay raise.

Almost no cities of Shreveport’s size nationally don’t charge some kind of fee. In fact, the largest cities in Louisiana all charge more.

But if Shreveporters have to bear a new fee, they deserve a little rate reduction from eliminating a related item. For over a decade, the city has encouraged sorting of garbage for recycling by charging $2.50 (plus buying containers with taxpayer bucks) monthly, whether a household participated. This allegedly would save tax dollars by diverting waste to save on landfill fees.

That never panned out. Initial audits showed only nine percent of waste diverted, and that fell another point upon conduct of another audit several years later. Indeed, the amount of fees saved dropped from around $314,000 annually to $185,000 by 2015, and the reduced waste going into the landfill didn’t extend its expected life span much. Meanwhile, the contracted recycler seemed indifferent to boosting the collection rate while profiting off materials it didn’t have to collect on its own.

So, in 2017 the city switched contractors. That perhaps turned out worse. Last month, Mayor Adrian Perkins complained that the new contractor simply sold materials to the old one and implied even less diversion from the city-used landfill. He said he and Councilman John Nickelson were “looking into” the contract and might propose changes.

If so, that change should go all the way by eliminating a program that only has lost money while pretending to make any significant environmental impact. While a swap would work out best, even folding in the recycling fee to make it additional to the proposed garbage fee would leave citizens better off, as the combined fee likely could support the operating needs of solid waste collection without needing to use other tax dollars.

People who want to recycle can do so on their own time and dime without forcing others to pay for something they don’t want. The experiment with the people’s resources didn’t work, and it should end.

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