Berkeley, California’s eco-utopia status has begun to work against residents relying on the deep green city’s pay-for-trash-but-not-recyclables refuse pick-up service. In a turn of events that many view as discouraging, there’s a good chance that folks will have to start forking over cash for curbside recycling services in the Bay Area city, one of the first cities in the US to even offer curbside recycling pick-up.

While it’s not unusual for municipalities to charge for recycling, this is Berkeley we’re dealing with. Plus, this news is somewhat unusual amidst the growing popularity of incentive-based recycling programs in cities nationwide (Los Angeles being a recent addition). I suppose you could call the proposed move a disincentive-based recycling program but the question is: do Berkeley residents even need an incentive to recycle any more? 

Basically, the estimated $1.5 million brought in by the proposed recycling pick-up fee would help patch up a $4 million budget deficit in the city’s $35 million refuse fund. The deficit has arisen partially from the fact that the value of recycled commodities has dropped significantly in the economic downturn making gratis recycling services a rather costly undertaking. For example, the worth of recycled aluminum went from $1,908 in July 2008 to $679 a ton in January 2009. Plus, Berkeley residents do such a bang-up job with recycling that there's simply less trash to pick-up so, in turn, the city has been making less money off of that.

According to some Berkeley residents, another reason recycling doesn’t pull in as much cash as it used to is because of recycling “poachers” who go through recycling bins and take anything of value before the city even has a chance to collect it.

And, of course, Berkeley’s deep-green status plays into the decision to enact the fee. In many cities, recycling rewards programs are enacted because rates are low and some kind of incentive needs to be provided to really get people motivated. In Berkeley, recycling is deeply engrained into the culture. Naturally, some Berkeley residents see the fee as acceptable since the city has moved beyond any kind of need for encouragement. Others see it as a punishment. What do you think?

In addition to the recycling fee, the city will also shift to garbage and compost trucks manned by one person instead of two and close the recycling transfer station on holidays. 

Via [San Francisco Chronicle]

Image: OrphanJones

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Berkeley's blue bins causing city to go into the red
To help close a reuse budget deficit of $4 million, Berkeley, Calif. of all places considers a fee for recycling pick-up services.