What’s the news from the top of the heap at Waste Management? | TheUnion.com

What’s the news from the top of the heap at Waste Management?

Other Voices
Jim Hurley

"Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees."

That's from David Letterman. We have a changing of the season once a week in my neighborhood; it happens every Thursday, when these green carts spring up along the roadside.

Waste Management, the ultimate source of those carts, has been much in the news of late. On March 6, there was a meeting of the Nevada County Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission, and Waste Management had a big announcement. It made a 45-minute presentation on how it plans to redesign the transfer station on McCourtney Road, aka the dump. The reasons for the upgrade are: (1) dealing with the lengthy cueing of the large number of self-haulers and (2) circulation of same within the facility. Both cueing and circulation come under the single heading of more self-haulers than the present configuration can accommodate.

There are, of course, two solutions: (A) make the facility bigger or (B) make the number of self-haulers smaller.

Despite repeated pleas from us and from my supervisor, Nate Beason, (Waste Management) has done absolutely nothing about the 600-700 self-haulers per day, 60 percent of whom are the two-canners.

Option A will be costly, tens of millions of dollars in Waste Management's opinion. That cost will be largely borne initially by Waste Management. The county's portion will have to be negotiated. It will continue the traffic burden of McCourtney Road and the continued air pollution coming from that traffic. Those costs to Waste Management and the county will eventually have to picked up by tax and rate payers.

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Option B will do what the county initially hired Waste Management to do: provide a service that gets residents out of the trash-hauling business and into an inexpensive, convenient and more environmentally friendly alternative. Option B will be very inexpensive, mostly the cost of an education plan at the Transfer Station to provide self-haulers, particularly the two-canners, those that bring two cans of household waste, to the advantages of Waste Management curbside service. There will be no additional cost to tax and rate payers, as Waste Management has contracted to do just that.

We have been advocating Option B for many months. We have pleaded with Waste Management to do something at the dump to get the two-canners onto their service. Perhaps just hand the two-canners a pamphlet, telling them that they needn't have made the trip. It would be cheaper, easier, less time consuming and more environmentally friendly not to waste the gas, time and effort. Those two cans could have been picked up at their curb, in front of their home, or a nearby collection site. And it can be done on an on-call basis; when your cans are full, call and they will be collected by Waste Management. No muss, no fuss, no time consumed, no gas wasted, no unnecessary CO2 burden to an already overloaded atmosphere. And do what we hired Waste Management to do: Take command of Nevada County's trash so that the public doesn't have to.

When Option B was first proposed to Waste Management, it was in full agreement and asked only to be given time to formulate a plan. It is particularly easy for it to reach the target audience, for it delivers itself to Waste Management at the dump. "Here we are with our two cans."

Why is Waste Management wasting advertising dollars on KNCO? Just engage them there at the entry booth and explain the options.

"We will pick up these cans for you for just $4 (approximately) per can. Save yourself the time, gas, cost and effort. Just call us when you have a need."

Waste Management even talked of additional financial incentives, maybe a few free pickups just for signing up. It will pay off for them in the long run. Not to mention the saving for all in not redoing the dump to accommodate all comers.

Despite repeated pleas from us and from my supervisor, Nate Beason, it has done absolutely nothing about the 600-700 self-haulers per day, 60 percent of whom are the two-canners. Emails to the Waste Management general manager asking to discuss this option went unanswered. Waste Management was asked at the recent county meeting why it has failed to follow through on those promises but did not respond to the question.

I've racked my brain to understand its intransigence. It is in its own interest to acquire these two-canners as new subscribers, and it would save Waste Management millions in the upgrade. But, and this is Nevada County, I started looking at conspiracy theories. It is possible there is an ulterior motive?

Oops. Costly upgrade? To whom? Come to think of it, that cost will be borne by rate payers and county taxpayers. In the end, Waste Management will have a much more valuable operation — at our expense. Are the cueing and circulation problems welcomed by Waste Management providing an essential excuse for the upgrade?

In any event, I'm not willing to trust the organization that gave us 96 gallon recycling carts that could not be transported to the collection site, to now to rebuild the transfer station.

Surely there are some for whom the service is not available, and there are times when your load is just not right for the trash can. So be it. Take it to the dump. I do. But I am not willing to subsidize those who continue to make dump runs just because that's the way they have always done it. Expediency, good citizenship and common sense trump tradition.

Jim Hurley lives in Nevada City.

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