Las Vegas City Council approved a 5 percent increase to resident’s waste and recycling collection services to address a mounting waste problem across the city. The 5 percent increase on resident’s bills will generate $4 million in new revenue per year, which will be used to fund environmental programs, including cleanups.
“Many of us have seen encampments and a lot of debris that’s left behind,” Councilman Cedric Crear said. “Every single day, our operations maintenance team is out just picking up debris. It’s a public safety hazard.” He warned if the council doesn’t act, “we will have [disease] outbreaks.”
Karen Duddlesten, the city’s chief community services officer, said the city is seeing increasing environmental and health cleanup issues with debris—plastic bottles, furniture, syringes—dumped along street corners, parks, alleyways and neighborhoods. City staff removed 300 tons of debris in 2009 compared with 3,000 tons in 2018, which cost the city 28,000 staff hours and $250,000 in cleanup costs.
When council signed a 20-year contract with Phoenix, Arizona-based Republic Services in 2017 to collect the city’s waste and recyclables, the contract agreement included an option to implement an environmental surcharge of up to 5 percent to support environmental programs to benefit the health and safety of the community.
The council approved the environmental surcharge, which will be added to resident’s waste and recycling bills beginning Oct. 1. The surcharge will cost residents $2.28 more per quarter or $9 more per year for waste and recycling services.
Councilman Stavros Anthony was the only one who opposed the surcharge, saying that the extra charge “has nothing to do with residential waste and recycling pickup.”
Councilwoman Michele Fiore countered his argument. She said, “This is an environmental need that we desperately need as a city. We as a city are responsible to keep our city clean and safe. My garbage will go up less than $10 a year to help pickup 600 tons of debris, things that are going into out waterways that we haven’t touched on.”
Duddlesten said the funds can be used towards cleanups, security upgrades to public parks as well as the city’s Courtyard Homeless Resource Center, including sanitation and enhanced services to reduce homeless encampments.
“This is a temporary solution to cleaning up some really hard issues within our community,” Councilman Brian Knudsen said. “My hope is that as a city we spend quite a bit more time looking at systemic issues and challenges that plague our community that result in homelessness.”