County commissioners said they need more information regarding the proposal, adding that residents need added education on what can and can’t be recycled through curbside programs.
“I think it’s the haulers’ responsibility to educate their customers,” Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden said.
Tony Hill, the county’s environmental resources director, said the proposal discussed Tuesday comes with a planned education period throughout the rest of the year, with information added to bills for trash hauling, as well as social media and other messaging.
Kiscaden said it was a good start, but added that information should be attached to recycling bins and continue beyond this year.
“We need something ongoing,” she said.
The proposed fine would be issued to people caught improperly using recycling bins. A warning would be issued by a hauler on the first offense, and Hill said a stringent appeals process involving county staff and the county’s Environmental Commission is part of the proposal.
“The burden of proof is on the haulers,” Hill said.
Commissioner Gregg Wright said residents have speculated the fine could be used as a way to indiscriminately increase costs for customers.
“I think the haulers have lost trust with customers,” he said.
At the same time, Wright acknowledged the intent is to cover costs related to improper recycling without spreading the expense over all customers.
“The intent of this is to have the people who are abusing the privilege of recycling bins pay for that, rather than raising everyone’s rates,” he said.
Hill said the proposal also seeks to establish a standard penalty between the county’s licensed haulers, rather than allowing them to create individual fines or fees in response to increasing recycling costs.
While the proposed ordinance change doesn’t define the level of violation that could lead to a fine, Commissioner Mark Thein, who sits on the Environmental Commission, said it’s unlikely a minor infraction, such as putting a pizza box in a recycling bin, would incur a fine.
“If a pizza box goes in front of the Environmental Commission, the fine will be deleted,” he said.
Kiscaden, however, said many residents may not have the time or ability to appeal to county staff or the Environmental Commission.
The county commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday morning, which received three written comments citing objections or concerns, but no one opted to address the county board online or in person.
With questions remaining, the commissioners postponed a decision to their Nov. 17 meeting to provide time to receive responses from county staff and licensed haulers.