SALEM — City councilors decided last night to take more time to iron out details in a proposed mandatory recycling policy.
The policy, meant to save the city money on trash disposal, would have an extensive grace period but would ultimately charge a $25 fine to residents who repeatedly do not put recycling on the curb.
Numerous councilors said they support the concept but did not feel ready to make a decision on the policy last night. The council voted 11-0 to keep the issue in committee for further discussion.
Several councilors raised questions over how the policy would be enforced at rental and multifamily residences. Would an entire building be fined if one apartment or condominium refuses to recycle? Would the tenants or the landlord be fined?
“The only thing the city can do is go after the property owner,” Councilor Paul Prevey said. “We need to figure that out (before voting on the policy).”
Councilor Robert McCarthy said he had worked with the city’s attorney to strike out language in an earlier version of the policy that would have instructed the city’s trash hauler not to collect trash from residences that did not put a recycling bin out with their trash.
“This (policy) is all about education,” McCarthy said. “We don’t want to fine anyone, we just want to get people to recycle more.”
If adopted, the policy would qualify the city for a $50,000 state grant. The funding would be used to create a “recycling coordinator” position, an employee who would encourage and educate residents to recycle.
The idea is supported by Mayor Kim Driscoll and the city’s recycling committee.
If a resident does not put recycling out to the curb on trash pickup day, the recycling coordinator would leave door hangers, call the household and send letters explaining the city’s policy. The $25 fine would be issued only if a resident failed to put out recycling for seven weeks, despite the coordinator’s letters and calls.
Councilor Todd Siegel said residents who do receive a fine can have it waived if they put recycling out to the curb within three weeks of being fined.
“It’s very easy to avoid getting to that last step. ... You’d have to work really hard to get a fine,” Councilor Josh Turiel said. “If you do get a fine, you have a chance to put your stuff out and have the fine tossed. ... I think there’s enough discretion built into this.”
Councilor Michael Sosnowski said he supports the concept of encouraging recycling, but not fines.
“I can’t support this if there’s going to be a penalty,” Sosnowski said. “I can’t support something that fines the public.”
“I think we’re getting hung up on the word ‘mandatory,’” Councilor Kevin Carr said. “It truly is not mandatory, in the sense of the word.”
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.