City Notes: City garbage totes could save most people money

Steve Diers, Charles City Administrator
Steve Diers, Charles City Administrator

By Steven Diers, Charles City Administrator

Hello everyone.

One of the major projects right now is the potential shift in how garbage and recycling is collected from our residences in Charles City. I want to focus my City Notes on that topic.

Garbage/recycling – bags vs. wheeled totes

The city is currently looking at whether to make a change with how our residential garbage and recycling is picked up. The main discussion the city is having now is whether to continue to use special bags and a 22-gallon recycling bin or change to wheeled totes for both garbage and recycling.

With the wheeled totes you would have three different sized green garbage containers to choose from: 35 gallon, 65 gallon and 95 gallon. These garbage totes would be picked up weekly.

With recycling the tote is blue and is 65 gallons in size and is picked up every other week.

There are positives and negatives to each system, but the general consensus is that the wheeled tote option has more advantages than that of a bag system. There is no out-of-pocket expense for the wheeled totes — pricing is included in the monthly cost.


By going to wheeled totes there would be a fixed monthly fee for all costs rather than a fixed monthly base fee plus the cost of buying special orange bags. The fixed monthly fee would be based on the size of garbage tote that you select.

Presently the monthly base cost for garbage is $6.45 per residence. Additionally you have the cost of bags on top of that which equate to 15-gallon bags for $1.14 each or 33-gallon for $1.54 each. With renewal the service contract base price for a bag system would increase 70 cents to $7.15 a month. Bag prices would be expected to stay the same.

To give some cost comparisons I’ve put together the following examples to show how pricing would play out between both styles of pickup. Please note that we are still working to finalize the exact pricing structure for tote system:

Anticipated monthly expense for garbage and recycling pickup

1) Three 33-gallon bags a week placed curbside:

   • Bag system — $7.15 base fee + $18.48 bags = $25.63.

   • Wheeled tote system — 95-gallon tote = $16.

2) Two 33-gallon bags a week placed curbside:

   • Bag system — $7.15 base fee + $12.32 bags = $19.47.

   • Wheeled tote system — 65-gallon tote = $14.

3) One 33-gallon bag a week placed curbside:

   • Bag system — $7.15 base fee + $6.16 bags = $13.31.

   • Wheeled tote system — 35-gallon tote = $12.50.

4) One 15-gallon bag a week placed curbside:

   • Bag system — $7.15 base fee + $4.56 bags= $11.71.

   • Wheeled tote system: 35-gallon tote = $12.50.

While the above figures show cost savings for a wide range of user levels, we are aware that the very lowest volume users would see an increase in monthly cost of about $1 to $2 per month.

We also want high recycling levels, which a bag system encourages naturally.

To address these issues we are looking to offset the price for the smallest 35-gallon garbage tote by increasing the cost on the larger totes. That offset would lower the 35-gallon price point by 50 cents to $1 and would still net a reduction in monthly cost on the larger bins.

Many homes use more than one recycling bin presently, however most homes use one 22-gallon recycling bin per week. By going to the 65-gallon recycling wheeled tote that is picked up every other week, each home will be netting an additional 10.5 gallons per week of additional recycling space.


Assuming that the change to wheeled totes does happen, it will take several months to change over. We would start with contacting residents by mail about setting up what size of container they would like. Then over the course of the next several months the totes would be delivered to each residence.

If a decision is made in the next month to go with this system we would likely see use of the carts begin in February to March 2018.

These are the main points associated with the discussion. If you have any questions, comments or concerns please let us know at City Hall.

Sample totes are on display at City Hall so please feel free to stop in and take a look and ask questions.

My email is:, or you can give me a call at: 641-257-6300.

Have a great day!