BY LOUISE R. SHAW
Clipper Staff Writer
FRUIT HEIGHTS — While city leaders here discussed recycling, Josh Hughes delivered.
Hughes, owner of Mountain West Curbside Recycling, delivered approximately 1,500 96-gallon recycling cans to residents of Fruit Heights last weekend, tagged with information on his program and the city’s proposal, and information about how to opt-out of either.
“Because of the impending program there, we stepped up,” said Hughes. “We want to help improve recycling for our Fruit Heights customers.”
Mountain West has been offering recycling to Fruit Heights residents since 2004. When the city initiated plans to offer recycling through its hauler, Robinson Waste, Hughes got inventive.
He offered to match the prices offered by the city, which vary according to the number of households involved, from $3.35 per month if 90 percent participate, to $4.70 per month if 60 percent are involved.
The city won’t offer recycling service if participation is less than 60 percent. Hughes’ company offers the service regardless of the number who sign up, but prices increase to $10 per month if less than 10 percent of residents take the service.
Hughes also offered two extra pick-up days each year, serving customers every first, third and fifth Wednesday rather than the city’s plan of every other week. The flyer indicated MountainWest will donate some of the proceeds from its Fruit Heights customers to the city’s parks, trails and recreation department. Using their service, he said, will save the city the administrative costs of providing recycling services.
“It’s an interesting dilemma,” said Mayor Todd Stevenson. “Usually when there are competitors in a marketplace, everyone wins because prices come down.”
In this case, he said, competitors actually hurt each other because you can’t get the volume you need to keep prices down.
“If the city does the recycling and they do a different one so they get part of the residents going with theirs, part with ours, we both end up having to charge a higher price than if there were a single provider,” Stevenson said.
There has been a lot of interest from residents for recycling services, said Stevenson, and the city’s interest is in providing that service at a reasonable cost.
“We’re trying to work through and figure out what the best solution is,” he said.
City leaders will sponsor an open house with information on the city’s proposal in the next two months, said Stevenson. Flyers will be sent out and residents given 60 days to opt out of the city’s program.
“We’re just proceeding forward as normal,” said Stevenson. “If we don’t get a minimum of 60 percent of our residents interested we won’t do it at all because it doesn’t become cost effective.”
After dropping off the cans last Friday and Saturday, Hughes began picking up cans on Saturday afternoon that had been tagged to reject the service.
“So far, just over 800 Fruit Heights households, of approximately 1,500 households, have signed an opt-out form asking us to let the city know that they do not wish to participate in the city’s curbside recycling program,” Hughes wrote in an email. “A portion of these residents have chosen to recycle with us privately and a portion simply do not want to recycle under either program.”
He estimates that the delivery of cans “multiplied our business by a few times, at least.”
“The residents have been very receptive to it,” he said.
City Manager Brandon Green said the city was caught “flatfooted” by what happened over the weekend and that many complaints came in. “We’re planning on moving ahead” with the city program, he confirmed.