OJAI : Council OKs Curbside Plan for Recycling

The Ojai City Council voted Tuesday to begin weekly curbside recycling service to households throughout the city this fall.

At its Tuesday night meeting, the council also decided to allow trash hauler E.J. Harrison to raise household collection rates by 15% to meet inflationary costs and help develop a recycling plan to reduce the volume of trash Ojai residents send to the dump.

The typical monthly rate will increase from $14.40 to $17.67 per household. Commercial rates, which vary according to such factors as bin size, will go up about 17%, said James Harrison, company vice president.

To encourage recycling, the council also established a lower monthly trash bill of $14.70 for those residents who keep the volume of garbage to less than 32 gallons a week. Harrison plans to offer his 1,800 residential customers either a 32-gallon plastic trash barrel or a 101-gallon barrel to replace the 55-gallon steel drums now used as trash cans.

Residents who recycle waste items may find that they don't need to pay the higher collection rates, Harrison said. No fee or deposit will be required for the new barrels, Harrison said. He expects to begin delivery in October.

"I think Ojai will really participate," Harrison said. "They're really environmentally conscious up there."

The council awarded Harrison the recycling contract, despite objections from his biggest competitor, Ojai Rubbish, at Tuesday night's meeting.

The recycling program will be modeled after the ones Harrison has under way in Ventura and Fillmore. Ojai residents who choose to participate will receive a free 35-to-45-gallon barrel.

Harrison said he is ready to begin a pilot recycling program as soon as the city irons out contract details. "There's tremendous interest in the program. To me it's fun to offer a service people are so excited about," he said.

All recyclable articles such as aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles, plastic bags and cardboard will be placed in the barrel with newspapers on top. The barrels will be trucked to Ventura's recycling center where the materials will be separated.

Alasdair Coyne, president of the Recycling and Environmental Action Program that has operated a monthly curbside collection service in the Ojai Valley for 12 years, said he is relieved that Harrison has offered to service Ojai because REAP does not have the capability to pick up all of the recycled materials.

"We feel he has a system that will work very well," Coyne said. "REAP will continue pickup in the unincorporated areas."

Harrison also noted that his company has already taken over REAP's commercial accounts for collecting white paper from offices. The company has held a garbage collection franchise with the city since 1965.

Harrison said the rate hike is needed to cover inflation, higher landfill scale fees, a franchise fee the city will collect from Harrison, and costs to develop a plan to reduce commercial and residential waste by 25% over the next five years as mandated by a new state law.

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