Wheaton moves ahead with high-tech garbage pickup plan

 
 
Updated 7/6/2016 4:51 PM

The Wheaton City Council agreed Tuesday to craft a contract with a new garbage collection vendor that would use radio frequency identification technology.

It's the first time the city accepted bids for a new garbage vendor since December 2007. The city then signed a five-year contract with Veolia ES Solid Waste Midwest, which later became Advanced Disposal, which began in 2008. A three-year extension was granted in 2013.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Now, after months of research, city staff members are recommending the city sign a contract with Lakeshore Recycling Systems to implement a garbage collection program that would replace the current one-time-use stickers with permanent tags that use RFID technology.

The program proposed by Lakeshore would continue the city's current pay-as-you-throw model, but it would use RFID tags that allow the garbage and recycling carts to wirelessly charge "tipping fees" to each customer's account when they are lifted onto the truck via an mechanical arm. It also offers an optional food scrap collection, which was one addition residents said they wanted through a survey.

A new contract will go into effect on Oct. 1, but city staff members are aiming to have it finalized by Aug. 1, which means a vote will likely occur at a city council meeting later this month.

Assistant City Manager John Duguay said he had received more than 50 phone calls and emails regarding the garbage contract proposals and that residents were asking a lot of questions about cart sizes, billing and costs.

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About 30 people also attended Tuesday's city council meeting to hear and contribute to a discussion about factors the council should consider when dealing with Lakeshore.

Concerns about how Lakeshore will handle mishaps with RFID readings were brought up by council members and residents at the meeting.

There were also questions about what will be done with the carts that residents currently use and how customers will be billed.

Josh Connell of Lakeshore said the company has been testing the technology for two years and working hard to fix issues with misreads.

"We will track all these calls. We'll give residents the benefit of the doubt," he said, stressing that residents won't be charged until their garbage and recycling carts are lifted up into the air by a mechanical arm.

Cost evaluations by the staff have shown that most families could save money with the new system.

A representative from Advanced Disposal asked the city council to take a closer look at the company's proposal for a new contract and to consider the level of service Advanced Disposal workers have given to the city in the past eight years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The council thanked Advanced Disposal for its service but agreed to work toward signing a contract with Lakeshore instead.

Councilman Phil Suess said he thinks the program sounds efficient and meets the city's goal of not introducing subscription fees and providing service at a significantly lower cost.

"I think this is all being done in a way that is not inconvenient, I don't think, to residents," he said. "It gets out from under the stickers. It is cheaper if you are able to recycle. The tipping charges are cheaper than the sticker costs would be."

Councilman Todd Scalzo said he supported moving ahead with the new technology because it seemed the most equitable.

"The only thing I would say is we need to make the public aware, do a public awareness program, to let people know they already do pay for recycling, it's just embedded in the cost of the garbage collection," he said. "This new program, if we implement it, is just separating out the costs."

To see more details about all the options the city is considering, visit wheaton.il.us. Questions or comments can be directed to Duguay at (630) 260-2033, or by emailing comments to feedback@wheaton.il.us.

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