Free Trash No More: Chicago City Council explores Trash Fee

City Council is exploring ways generate revenue to solve our cities $30 billion pension crisis, and the latest bubble discussion is a Trash Fee, “Pay as you go?”.  This is to counter a service that is currently free to 600,000 homes.  This represents 905,000 tons of annual trash with a disposal costs of $46.71, a $43 million dollar cost paid to landfills. Hauling, pickup, and maintenance of a fleet of garbage trucks add even more to the cost of handling of Chicago’s trash. Charging a  fee for trash pickup and handling is being discussed at $100 per year for a single 96-gallon picked up weekly. Currently the city handles 1.5 million cans so this would generate upwards of $150 million annually for city disposal services.  If people reduce the waste, the city saves and if they produce trash, then they pay the freight.  From the City point of view this is a win-win fee. It is to be noted this is a  common fee  across the USA, and the places Chicago has been the rare city of maintaining remarkable city services at little direct cost to the citizen. We don’t realize how good we really have it, and this trash ‘pay as you go’ fee will make everyone recognize that we have a trash problem as well as a budget crisis.

Trash Fee  can be  a boon to Urban Farmers and City composters, as this finally gives a cost to organic waste. Organic waste is food scraps from our homes and restaurants,  excess food waste from producers from grocery stores, manufacturers, and distributors, cotton in all its forms (yes even tshirts), yard and green materials, shredded paper, cardboard, and the list goes on.  Organic waste is responsible for up to 40% of our landfill waste and is the largest single component. If this diverted to composters (businesses and groups that convert organic waste materials into great soil) could eventually  divert over 350 thousand  tons, and a potential savings of at least $18 million dollars in disposal fees.  It would provide  a tremendous advantage to our  local food growers  with access to millions of tons of nutrient rich compost soil, covering approximately 100 acres of city farmland. This would allow Urban farmers to expand and provide fresh produce to a half million citizens.  The Trash Fee, would make this far more viable, as the composters can reduce disposal fees by at least 25% over landfills once to scale.  It would produce over 400 full time jobs.  This gives a opportunity that expand and improve our city, recognizing the hidden costs of trash and the amazing investment of recycling it into soil and Urban Farms.

In all cases, while the reasons to look at our trash by City Council is about revenue this is still a major opportunity for Chicagoans see the hidden cost of this free service. Once they understand the cost of trash removal, landfills, and the huge environmental damage being done to service the daily trash flow, they will seek out solutions. Chicago Urban Farms and Composters, small niche businesses today are integral part of the alternative to landfills. The Trash Fee can help create a cleaner greener city. All everyone has to understand there is no such thing as free trash.  This is another step to a cleaner, greener Chicago.

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