LAWRENCEVILLE - Trash haulers worried they would lose their businesses. Residents worried they would lose their choice. And environmentalists worried that if a new waste management plan didn't pass, they would lose more opportunities to recycle.
At a public hearing Monday, more than 20 people commented on a proposed new trash plan that would divide the county into eight districts, allowing one garbage service to pick up waste in each area. Currently, eight providers crisscross the county, picking up garbage in areas scattered throughout Gwinnett.
The new plan, which county commissioners are scheduled to vote on at 2 p.m. today, would use a competitive bidding process to limit the number of providers in the county. It would lower costs, allow for more recycling options and force 20,000 residents who have no garbage service to use a trash provider, Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Director Connie Wiggins said.
Southern Sanitation owner Buddy Johnson said while the plan is a good one, he and other small haulers are worried that if it goes through, they won't get to participate in it.
"There's no doubt about it, it would be more efficient to go through a subdivision. We'd do a better job; we'd have better control," he said. "The only thing is getting a piece of the pie. All the small haulers are worried that the big boys will monopolize it, that they'll go in there and low-ball the price."
More than 100 people came to the meeting, most opposed to the trash proposal. Martin Feigen, a Buford resident, said he appreciated being able to change his service. Feigen asked that residents be allowed to keep their choices, calling on waste management providers to come up with a solution.
"Give us the opportunity, first, to recycle and reduce the amount of rubbish before you take our rights away," he said.
Residents suggested requiring a flat fee for recycling, but making residents pay per-use for trash pickup by buying colored bags. That would encourage recycling and discourage people from throwing things away, they said. One of Gwinnett's goals with the plan is to reduce the amount of garbage by 23 percent by 2017.
But others said they didn't want the government interfering in their ability to choose a provider. Carlos Llorens, one of thousands of residents who don't have trash service, said he pays for garbage pickup at work and brings his waste from home to avoid paying in more than one place.
A smaller group of residents came to support the change, which they said would reduce pollution. Tracy Duvall, who said he walks through the woods on the way to work, said he often sees trash there that people have gone to great lengths to dispose of.
Pat Pickering, a Lawrenceville resident, said she is tired of the number of trucks traversing her street and garbage that is always left out.
"I don't know what the answer is, but I think Connie (Wiggins) is getting pretty close," she said.