Margie Walker of Omaha talks of her garden and composting, urging the council to consider a trash collection plan that includes a better use of yard waste.

Omaha residents faced with potential new restrictions on their household trash and waste collection came before the City Council to say they expect more out of the proposed changes.

Tuesday’s public hearing before the council followed a caution from Mayor Jean Stothert that the City of Omaha can only pay so much for a new solid waste contract. One cut to service up for consideration: Eliminating uniform yard waste collection and composting.

But Mike O'Hara, a Sierra Club representative, asked the council to keep separate yard waste collection and composting. 

Larry Bradley, an adjunct geology faculty member at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said households would lose a significant amount of their trash capacity in the transition.

Currently, a household can put out five 32-gallon trash cans on their own. Those would be replaced by a single 96-gallon container for trash and yard waste.

As a result, he warned there could be a spike in illegal dumping.

Mary Ruth Stegman, representing Omaha Together One Community, said people support separate yard waste and say a single 96-gallon container for trash and yard waste is not enough. She also urged the council to send yard waste to a composting site.

Stothert told the council that the days of unlimited free yard waste collection are over — she called it a cost that the city simply cannot afford.

Stothert said change is unavoidable in the next contract.

"The decision that we are making seems very simple,” she said, “yet it is very complex and it will impact every Omaha taxpayer over the next 10 to 20 years."

Representatives of Omaha Public Works and FCC Environmental Services, which would receive the contract, spoke in favor of deal.

The proposed 10-year contract with FCC would cost $22.7 million a year — $7.8 million more than the city is paying this year. That’s for two carts per household.

Stothert said FCC's proposal for three carts with separate yard waste would be $14 million more than what the city now pays.

For its rate, FCC would provide Omahans with two 96-gallon carts — one for trash and yard waste combined, picked up weekly; and one for recycling, picked up every other week. Beginning in 2021, yard waste would be dumped in a landfill instead of being collected separately and turned into OmaGro compost.

Individual homeowners who want to dispose of more trash and yard waste than fits in a single cart would have to pay more. They could either rent an extra cart for the year, or buy stickers that they would need to put on their yard waste bags

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