January 28, 2002 11:00 pm

La Grande residents are faced with the reality that curbside recycling is coming. The big question hanging over the issue is how much it will cost.

Recycling saves resources. It saves landfill space. And although La Grande residents have been good about hauling their recyclables to the recycling center over the years, as reflected through a 22 percent recycling rate, the communitys recycling would increase dramatically if curbside recycling was available.

City Garbage

Service is ready to do just that. La Grande is a community that will respond favorably if the price is right. But providing curbside recycling doesnt come without a cost. City Garbage will have to make sure its costs are recovered, but it also needs to make sure it doesnt put so much of a burden on customers that people simply cancel their service.

City Garbage has said curbside recycling will cost an additional $3.50 per month on top of last years $1.75 a month increase for yard debris recycling. A $5.25 jump in garbage rates within a year takes a bite out of the monthly budget. The current rate of $10.50 a month for weekly pickup would go to $14. Those who recycle more would have the opportunity to cut back on garbage pickups, though. The current rate for every other week service, excluding a curbside rate, is $8.50. Monthly service is $6.35.

The company should review its services and consider a reverse-step system that allows people who recycle a lot and create less garbage to pay less per month than those who toss everything in the trash container. Varying sizes of containers should be available so that pricing can be based on how much garbage is create. With curbside recycling and the added fee it brings, more people might be able to switch from weekly to every-other-week pickup. But the price for pickup needs to reflect how much garbage is being hauled away.

City Garbage Service has done a good job of responding to the publics needs. The company has moved ahead with its materials recovery center, which will also serve as a recycling center in the future. In lieu of curbside recycling, the company has operated and maintained a recycling center on Willow Street, one that exceeds expectations in terms of use. But increased traffic on Willow has put the future of the recycling center in doubt due to safety issues.

City Garbage Service and the City of La Grande should move ahead with curbside recycling. Most residents will like having the chance to toss their recyclables weekly rather than having to store them and haul them to the congested recycling center. But every effort must be made to keep the rate as low as possible by offering customers opportunities to save based on how much trash they produce. A $3.50 jump is too much. Someone who fills a 30-gallon cart should pay less than someone who fills a 64-gallon cart. Customers will need different choices to help offset the cost of recycling. If City Garbage can do that, it wont have much of a squabble from