New WL waste disposal program deemed a success
Oct. 7 marked an important milestone for West Linn Refuse and Recycling (WLRR), as the company held its premiere drop-off event as part of a new waste disposal program that began in 2017.
The event was part of a new "hybrid" approach to what was formerly known as the "Spring Cleanup Program." Where in previous years, WLRR took one day every year to pick up excess waste from residents' curbsides across the city, free of charge, the hybrid model approved by the West Linn City Council allowed for residents to individually request one curbside pickup per year while WLRR would host a large scale drop-off event at the Willamette Christian Church.
The hope was that the new model would cut costs while still providing the services residents had come to expect.
As then-West Linn Public Improvement Specialist Dylan Digby noted in a 2016 memo to the City Council, the cost of the Spring Cleanup Program rose from just over $36,000 in 2008 to more than $53,000 in 2016.
There were also issues with residents from surrounding cities "renting" space in West Linn for the cleanup, which in turn attracted scrap collectors who would rummage through the curbside materials.
At a Nov. 13 City Council work session, WLRR updated the council on the pilot program's first year. "There were things we thought went really well, and there were things that we thought didn't go well and we want to get better at," WLRR representative Steve Donovan said.
Perhaps most noteworthy was the sharp reduction in cost for 2017. According to Donovan, the total cost for the Oct. 7 drop-off event — including labor, vehicles/equipment and marketing — was about $12,500.
"We were at almost $40,000 (for the drop-off event) last year, and the costs were running away from us," Donovan said.
A total of 615 households participated in the drop-off event, discarding an array of waste materials ranging from televisions to computer monitors, batteries and old documents.
"The thing we did this year that was remarkably popular was shredding," Donovan said. "It's a sign of the times we live in. One lady came to shred 30 years of tax returns."
Indeed, WLRR collected a whopping seven tons of shredded documents by the end of the event, along with nine-and-a-half tons of scrap metal, .74 tons of batteries, six trailer loads of Goodwill donations and 21 tons of solid waste.
"In years past, (the batteries) would have gone to the landfill," Donovan said. "And they are, of course, little acid bombs."
He added that because this was a Metro-approved clean-up event, WLRR did not have to pay a disposal fee for solid waste.
"Our total disposal net cost of recyclables was $40 this year," he said. "Last year, it was in the thousands."
There were some hiccups, namely involving traffic buildup on Salamo Road at the event's peak. WLRR estimated that at one point, between 40 and 50 cars were lined up on Salamo.
"We're probably going to want to have a flagging operation next year," Donovan said. "We'd also like to start earlier ... Even if we start earlier, there is going to be a peak time — we're just going to have to manage it better."
City Councilor Rich Sakelik suggested that WLRR might create a schedule to allow for different neighborhoods to drop off items at specific times, and Donovan said that idea was under consideration.
Andy Kahut, general manager of Kahut Waste Services — which oversees WLRR — said the on-demand pick-up service had also been popular so far this year, though he did not yet have exact figures on how many residents had
"Both events are a success on our end," he said. "Both are much more manageable both from an operations standpoint and costs (being) under control."