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Manitou wants fewer trash trucks and more recycling, but may be lacking enough citizen participation

Not since Oscar the Grouch has anyone shown as much dedication to trash as Teri Christman.

For two years now, the stay-at-home Manitou Springs mom has been battling the garbage trucks that roar through her town. She's fighting to change city law so that only one trash company can operate in Manitou, and she wants that company to also provide single-stream recycling to every home.

She's drawn closer than ever to declaring victory. After plenty of planning, the city received a single bid from Bestway Disposal to take over the city's trash hauling starting on May 1. It would seem all the pieces are in place.

Not so.

"We've just kind of struggled with how to make this work," Christman says, sighing. "[But] I think this plan has a lot of potential."

One of the biggest remaining challenges is ensuring participation in the garbage program. At first, it was thought that all of the town's residents would get the service. But that may not be practical — turns out, as many as a third of Manitoids don't get trash service now.

"Yeah, there are several hundred people in town who for one reason or another don't have trash service with any of the large haulers," Manitou Mayor Marc Snyder says with puzzlement.

Apparently, some people hire a very small company, use a neighbor's trash can, or take their waste to work. Some houses are up such steep, narrow roads that trash trucks can't reach them (though Bestway says it can service these homes with a small truck it recently purchased).

If a lot of people opt out of the trash program, it could complicate things. See, the single-hauler plan depends on economies of scale: The more accounts Bestway has, the less it'll likely charge — and one of the big selling points of the plan was that residents would get trash and recycling service for less than they're currently paying for trash alone.

It remains to be seen whether a large part of Manitou would rather squirrel the Hefty bags into the company Dumpster than pay a fee, but on the bright side, Phil Kiemel, co-owner of Bestway, says he anticipated less than full participation in his pricing. He asserts Bestway would still offer the average customer "a significant savings."

The city will negotiate with Bestway on March 15. In the meantime, Christman isn't the only one hoping for success. Manitou City Councilor Matt Carpenter first got involved in the single-hauler effort as a private citizen. He admits to being annoyed by the constant stream of trucks past his house, and says he's wondered if frequent problems with underground pipes have happened because of all the heavy traffic.

Beyond that, Carpenter sheepishly admits that he hasn't been much of a recycler; he says he's intimidated by all the sorting bins. If offered the simpler single-stream system, he says, his family would clean up its act.

"That actually excites me, that it would be that easy to suddenly make a difference," Carpenter says.

Actually, the single-hauler plan is expected to have many positive outcomes. As previously reported, garbage trucks are hard on roads (one truck equals 1,500 cars), bad for the environment (they burn one gallon of diesel per 2.8 miles) and dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists (killing about 24 per 1 million miles traveled, according to one study). Since three major trash services serve Manitou, traffic is often heavy.

stanley@csindy.com

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