Council to Reconsider Color-changing Garbage, Recycle Carts

Just weeks after giving an initial go-ahead, the Lewisville City Council will reconsider Monday whether to go forward with plans for color-changing recycling and garbage carts that some say may cause confusion. The original plan called for recycle carts which are blue, but turn green when full, and garbage carts that are green, but turn blue when full. By implementing the color-changing carts, the Council had hoped to cut down on the cost of garbage and recycle collection by avoiding the extra steps necessary to pick up a cart that is empty. The plan is estimated to save about 45 cents per year per residential garbage customer.

Currently the City of Lewisville has issued each residential customer one 64 gallon dark green recycle cart, but the new custom-made carts will be 97 gallons for recycle, and 96 gallons for garbage.

Assistant City Manager Steve Bacchus explained that at the direction of the City Council, staff had developed a plan to have the custom-made color-changing carts made at a cost of $24 million, paid initially by the city’s franchise holder Waste Management, but billed to customers at a rate of $7.42 per month for rental. “Even though it might look confusing, it’s really not,” said Bacchus. “Regardless of color, the recycling carts are 97 gallons, and the garbage carts are 96 gallons. It’s really easy to tell the difference.”

The plan quickly drew opponents after passing 4-1 at a Council meeting in December though. Councilman Rudy Durham, who cast the one dissenting vote, explained his opposition: “I don’t have any idea why they wanted garbage carts in the first place, when what we have works just fine. Much less, this color changing nonsense. I don’t care if it’s zebra-striped or pink-polka-dotted.”

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem TJ Gilmore, who was credited with the idea for the color-changing carts walked that notion back in a phone interview Thursday. “It was [Councilman Neil] Ferguson’s idea to have the carts change colors,” said Gilmore. “All I said was that it would be cool if they could change colors like the spoons at Bahama Bucks,” he added, referring to a local shaved ice beverage vendor. “I think someone took me a little too literally,” Gilmore stressed.

In a 2,700 word email Friday, Ferguson disclaimed the idea that he had asked for color-changing carts. “All I said was that the carts needed to be different colors from each other, and preferably not really obnoxious colors,” he said. “In most places, green means garbage, and blue means recycle. But right now, we’re green for recycle, so I thought blue would be confusing since it means recycle, and residents would be changing to blue from green. We could go to black, but think about how that would heat up the trash, and in the summertime, with weekly garbage collection, things would get pretty ripe,” Ferguson explained.

Councilman Tierney said his preference was for blonde and brunette-colored carts, then to use red carts whenever the $14 per month mandatory composting bins are implemented later in the year. Mayor Pro Tem Leroy Vaughn, who voted for the color-changing proposal, said Friday that he was unaware that the plan was for them to literally be color-changing as the residents filled the containers. “No, I just thought TJ [Gilmore] was joking around about that. I thought I was voting for Ferguson’s proposal to have them be green and blue,” said Vaughn.

Former Councilman John Gorena denounced the plan on his blog Thursday when the Council agenda was posted. “It’s clear that this is just one more step in implementing Agenda 21,” said Gorena. “First it’s larger recycle bins, then some other stuff happens, then the city will have the UN flag flying at City Hall, and they’ll take away our bibles and guns,” he added. Lewisville resident George Kranke, who is color-blind, told the Council during the Citizen’s Forum at last Monday’s Council meeting that the color scheme would be very difficult for him. “I just won’t do it,” he said. “My garbage is going in bags, and I’ll stick recycle in my current cart. Fine me or take me to jail. I dare you”.

The Council rejected a plan that would have stamped “Garbage” and “Recycle”, along with Spanish equivalents “Basura” and “Reciclar” along with the universal icons on each side of the carts. Stamping the carts with these labels would have cost about $1 per cart. “People aren’t going to read that,” said Gilmore. “Are you kidding me?” asked Ferguson. “Residents can’t be expected to read labels!”

It’s back to the drawing board for Bacchus, who will now draft an alternate plan for the cart color scheme. But city officials are glad that the Council is reconsidering the move now, before the city invested $200,000 in a public education campaign about the carts to use. “I’m too old for this horse crap,” said Bacchus. “I’m eligible for retirement, and I’m thinking sooner rather than later.” City Manager Claude King said he wouldn’t be worrying about Bacchus’s departure. “That’s a problem for someone else to deal with,” said King. “After this next retreat, I’m going to retire and move to Flower Mound,” he added. “They never have drama like this.”

Flower Mound had a similar dilemma with cart color schemes several years ago when they moved to a two-cart system. But rather than bicker over which color should be recycling, and which should be garbage, the Town Council there decided to meet in the middle in the spirit of cooperation that Flower Mound is noted for. Residents there alternate between blue-green carts for garbage and greenish-blue carts for recycling one week, then the opposite way the following week. Waste Management spokesman Bill Pyle said it didn’t cause a problem for them. “We don’t know anything about cart colors in Flower Mound,” said Pyle. “The town only has a contract for garbage, and that’s where everything goes,” he added. If they want to recycle, they need to come talk to us about that.

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