Recycling initiative a go
Aspen’s new recycling initiative will go into effect as planned Friday after a district court judge on Monday rejected one trash hauler’s request for a court order delaying the startup of the new rules.Judge James B. Boyd denied Waste Management of Colorado’s request for a preliminary injunction, which it sought to hold up the city’s recycling initiative until a lawsuit over the new law is resolved. Waste Management sued the city in October after the City Council adopted an ordinance that establishes the initiative.Boyd, in his ruling, rejected Waste Management’s claim that it will suffer irreparable harm if the rate structure required by the ordinance goes into effect Friday and then is struck down at a later date.Waste Management claims it will be forced to obtain more equipment, hire more employees and make more truck trips, but those difficulties will exist even if the rate structure dictated by the ordinance is ultimately struck down, Boyd said, noting other provisions of the ordinance that would remain in place.He also called the company’s claim that it may lose customers “speculative.”Among the initiative’s goals, Boyd said, is to reduce what is thrown out as waste.”An injunction would disserve the public interest by postponing the benefits sought by Aspen and prolonging the detriments Aspen sees in the status quo,” he wrote.The judge further said Waste Management failed to show it was likely to succeed in its suit against the city – a potentially telling assessment of the lawsuit’s overall chances of success.”It’s a good sign,” said John Worcester, city attorney. “One of the burdens for them was to show a likelihood they would succeed on the merits of the case.”Worcester and attorney Kimberly Viergever, representing Waste Management, both presented arguments to Boyd last Friday in Glenwood Springs. Several witnesses also testified on the potential impacts of the recycling ordinance.Yesterday, Viergever said Waste Management is contemplating its next step in light of Boyd’s ruling. The city has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.”Obviously, we were disappointed with the ruling and respectively disagree with it,” she said.Waste Management is predicting cost increases for trash service in Aspen, Viergever added.”Probably, the citizens of Aspen will see a significant increase in the cost of trash collection,” Viergever said.A spokesperson at Waste Management in Glenwood Springs, however, said no prices were yet available to quote on the cost of folding recycling into what customers currently pay for trash pickup.The recycling ordinance requires trash haulers to include the pickup of recyclables for residential and commercial customers as part of their base rate for trash service. The ordinance does not mandate any particular rate, but Waste Management argued the city was establishing a “rate design” that, in effect, constituted rate regulation, in violation of state statute.The ordinance does not require customers to recycle – nobody faces a citation for tossing newspapers out with the trash – but the city hopes they will recycle, since it will be made more convenient and they’ll be paying for the service anyway.The ordinance does ban the disposal of yard waste with trash.The ordinance goes into effect as existing contracts for trash pickup expire. For the typical residential customer, that means when they pay their next bill. Haulers are required to notify customers about the changes, though the city has been advertising the initiative and sent out notices to residents with its utility bills.Residential customers will have curbside pickup of cans, glass and bottles, as well as newspapers. Commercial customers will also have cardboard and office-paper recycling folded into their trash rates, though they can gain an exemption for cardboard if they currently haul cardboard to a recycling center themselves.Most of the people who have called the city with questions are concerned about the ban on yard waste in garbage, according to Jannette Murison, the city’s senior environmental health specialist.While the onset of winter renders the issue temporarily moot, next spring, residents can’t put their grass clippings, for example, in with their trash. The city is working to arrange drop-off sites for such waste and possibly a leaf pickup or two in the fall, Murison said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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