One thing has become clear in the Village of Hamburg: The use of clear plastic garbage bags is saving the village money in disposal costs.
The village saved $9,677 in reduced solid-waste disposal costs and increased revenue from additional recycling in the first quarter the bags were used. When the village required all residents to place their garbage in clear plastic bags June 1, it projected an annual savings of $34,000. If the trend keeps pace for the next three quarters, savings would exceed the projection.
"It shows sometimes certain decisions, which may seem foolish, may in fact turn out to be very positive for everybody," Mayor John S. Thomas said.
"I'm very pleased," said Public Works Superintendent Gerald E. Knoll. The community is doing what they've got to do. It's showing in the savings."
The village and Thomas and Knoll, in particular, have been the subject of a good amount of criticism over the issue after one couple refused to use the clear plastic bags. John and Sharon Dobrzenski object to the use of the bags on the grounds they interfere with their right to privacy.
They placed their garbage in dark plastic bags for 2 1/2 months, and the village refused to pick up the garbage. Dobrzenski, the only resident to be cited in connection with the new policy, was found guilty in Village Court of violating two village codes.
"You're elected to not be popular. You're elected to do things for the whole community," the mayor said. "The more I hear that government should be run like a business, the more I believe it."
Knoll said that the village experienced a 16 percent reduction in the amount of garbage put out at the curb for disposal, from 262.8 tons in August 1998 to 221.5 tons last month. The amount of recyclables put out increased 33 percent, from 85.6 tons in August 1998 to 114.2 tons last month.
The increased revenue from increased recycling was $286 last month, and the savings from reduced disposal costs was $2,037.
If the savings continue at the same rate, $38,708 would be saved over a year's time. Some residents note that breaks down to about $3.50 per person and is not worth the hassle or the loss of privacy.
"That's a playground, a lot of trees to be planted, a road to be repaved," Thomas said. "It's certainly not an answer to all things. It is another way to keep the tax rate of the village down."