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Environmental Sustainability Efforts This Spring with City Council

April 24th, 2019

During this week’s City Council Meeting on June 4, they discussed both the Ban the Bag ordinance and the mayor’s Garbage Contract Proposal. City Councilman Festersen began by acknowledging the major sustainable strides in Omaha. Wohlners Neighborhood Grocery created measures to not use plastic bag and offers a 5% discount for reusable bags. City Councilman Rich Pahls, pointed out how it was interesting to see the younger people really making an effort from kindergarten to graduate level classes. He encouraged the high school Students for Sustainability to “meet with the business world” to organize with all of the players to have a more comprehensive approach. He argued that a one size does not fit all and that he wants everyone to find their own solutions. City Councilman Harding, also agreed that all stakeholders must work together instead of focusing only on one component. The Students for Sustainability, however, have been organizing together, even collecting over 10,000 signatures for support of this ban the bag. They meet every two weeks during school year and once a week during the summer. In conclusion, the override of the mayor’s veto was unsuccessful with one vote short from a majority: four to three. City Councilman Harding, however, revealed that he is currently working on a resolution for plastic waste to not just plastic bag. He hopes to have it out soon. City Councilman Jerram suggested that the students use those 10,000 signatures to fuel another campaign to petition this issue to be on the 2020 ballot. City Councilman Palermo concluded stating this issue is not going anywhere.

On the other hand, Mayor Jean Stothert testified with new additions to the garbage proposal, explaining that she is listening to the concerns of her constituents. Her compromise is a $22.7 million, 10-year contract with FCC Environmental, that has an added Saturday collection for all of yard waste, with six weeks in spring and six weeks in fall to allow unlimited yard waste pick up, and a sticker program year-round. Larger households could also request three carts, instead of two, after 90 days at no additional charge. City Councilman Harding simply did not think it would be reasonable to have Saturday pickups for yard waste. City Councilman Jerram regarded this Saturday collection as “a sad reflection of the compost system in Omaha” and that he must recognize his constituents concerns for a contract that recognizes how separating yard waste is an environmental benefit. On the other hand, Council member Rich Pahls wants to pursue a contract with West Central Sanitation, a Minnesota company that proposed a less-expensive proposal to Omaha. Pahls recounts this company as “something unique.” In conclusion, the City Council members denied the proposal 6-1, which means the Omaha Public Works Department must create a new proposal and present to the city council before the current bids expire at the end of July.

OWH Failed Veto Override

OWH Garbage Contract

How we got here:

May 21

On May 21, the Ban the Bag Ordinance had a second hearing after some changes were made. The hearing included some OTOC testiminy as well as very articulate and moving testimony from several high school and college students about the harm,m of plastics and a need to protect the planet’s future for the next generations. The ordinance passed with a 4-3 vote! Unfortunately, it was vetoed the next day by the Mayor. It will be voted on again on June 4.

OWH Bag Ban Passes!

 

OWH Mayo’s Veto

OWH veto override possibilities

April 23

Members of the OTOC Environmental Sustainability Action Team testified Tuesday, April 23 at two different public hearings at the city council. The first hearing was for the Mayor’s proposed garbage contract. After several years of study, a request for Bids (RFB) was put out, and four companies submitted different bids in January 2019. The Mayor and a working group put together a recommendation to accept a bid by company FCC that would have 2 type of waste pick up- 1 combined garbage and yard-waste and 1 recycling bin. OTOC Leaders testified Tuesday afternoon in opposition to this bid, calling for the need to have separate yard waste.

The vote for the Garbage Contract is scheduled for June 4 (read more here)

See news coverage of the hearing:

OWH: Omahans commenting on mayor’s proposed trash contract say they expect more out of the suggested changes

OWH: Mayor stands by two-cart trash proposal as Omahans, City Council members pick it apart

KETV Channel 7: City council discusses proposed trash collection plan for hours

KMTV Channel 3: Homeowners urge city to reconsider Omaha’s next waste contract

OTOC is opposed to this bid by FCC because it calls for trash and yard waste to be commingled and sent to the Pheasant Point Landfill.

  • The bid from FCC for three carts (one each for trash, yard waste and recycling) is $28.6M while to cost of two carts (one which mixes trash and yard waste and one for recycling) is $22.7M per year.  The cost to separate trash from yard waste is only $5.9 Million or 78 cents per household per week. ($5.9M divided by 145,000 households)
  • Most people surveyed in the 2016 survey favored the separation of yard waste and trash. Is it not worth the small amount per household per week to choose the most environmentally sound option of separating trash and yard waste?
  • We don’t need a yard waste collection policy that encourages illegal dumping. Some frustrated residents will illegally dump their excess yard waste in alleys, vacant lots and elsewhere. Omaha already has a serious litter problem, and only one 96-gallon bin a week for garbage and ward waste is not enough space in growing seasons.
  • The more yard waste we send to the landfill, the more methane gas our trash/yard waste will produce. Methane is 72 times more destructive of our climate than CO2 over a 20 year period. Methane accounts for roughly 1/3 of heat capture that contributes to global warming.
  • Our landfill collects methane from completed waste cells to generate electricity, but there is already such an abundance of methane that they have to burn the excess in flairs, creating more C02. More commingling of trash/yard waste means even more methane released into the environment or flared.

Also at Tuesday April 23’s Council Meeting, OTOC leaders also supported Council Member Festersen’s Ordinance to ban plastic bags at some retailers.

The vote for this ordinance is scheduled for May 21 (read more here)

In the News:

OWH: Mayor Stothert, Omahans weigh in on proposed plastic bag ban

KETV Channel 7: A mixed bag: Public, officials sound off on Omaha’s proposed plastic bag ban

OTOC supports the city ordinance to ban certain plastic bags or Ban the Bag. 

  • There is a growing concern that single-use plastic bags are creating a pollution problem not only locally, but globally. Only 9% of all plastic is recycled.  The average working life of a single-use plastic bag from checkout to household is 12 minutes. This ordinance would save about 280 million plastic bags per year in Omaha Metro area alone.
  • Plastic bags are often mistaken for food by animals, birds, and fish. The bags are carried by streams and rivers and eventually end up in the oceans, threatening the lives of aquatic animals and fish. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now twice the size of Texas. If we continue our dependence on plastics at the current rate, by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish.

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