Residents react to new Waste Management rules
Grass Valley resident Larik Butyrin said he’s fed up with Waste Management.
According to Butyrin, he’s complained to anyone who will listen about everything from the bin design to lack of recycling centers. Now, new changes that have Smart Trucks photograph bins and notify customers about overfills or contamination are the last straw.
”Their name is Waste Management. It’s their job to manage the waste, not ours,“ Butyrin said of the new rules he believes put too much onus on customers.
According to Waste Management spokesperson Paul Rosynsky, the company’s new policy will be cracking down on plastic bags in recycling bins, though polysterene foam, food scraps and other products are also prohibited.
In yard waste bins, the focus is on large items and types of plants that could interfere with their composting process, like palm leaves, scotch broom, poison oak, Himalayan blackberry, tree stumps, root balls and anything with a diameter over six inches.
“Those items just don’t compost correctly,” Rosynsky said.
Yard waste and recycling contaminants like plastic bags and scotch broom can still be thrown in trash bins, he added.
Some customers may have already started receiving letters about overfilled or contaminated bins, but Rosynsky said for now the warnings are educational. Starting April 5, warnings will begin to tally up.
After two warnings for overfilled carts, customers can be charged $10.32 for each additional warning. After three warnings for contamination, customers may have their recycling or yard waste carts removed, which includes a $25.79 fee.
While the program’s goal is to reduce the amount of trash that spills onto streets and waterways and increase the amount of recyclable material, Butyrin said it may have the opposite effect by penalizing instead of incentivizing customers.
“Incentivize people to do the right thing instead of doing the penalty phase first,” he said. “It’s gonna backfire on them because as soon as people start getting citations, they’ll say ’screw it.’”
Butyrin said he expects fewer people to bother recycling and anticipates more illegal dumping in the coming months.
But, according to Rosynsky, similar programs have seen success in other jurisdictions, despite initial skepticism.
The city of Winters in Yolo County was the first in the nation to employ the program, which officially began in October.
In June, prior to any education or outreach, the city of just under 7,000 residents averaged 31 overage incidents and 169 contamination incidents per week.
In about four months since the program started, city residents were cited 79 times for overfilled bins.
“It’s pretty remarkable how quickly people get it and (issues) drop off dramatically,” Rosynsky said.
While it’s too early to judge Nevada County’s program, Rosysnky said Waste Management is committed to working with customers on any issues that may arise.
One widespread worry among residents is whether they’ll get charged if strangers overfill or contaminate their bins once they’re put out for service — which some say is common.
“We haven’t really seen that happening, we’ve seen a lot more illegal dumping happening usually around larger commercial bins,” Rosynksy said. “But if a customer does feel that that’s happening a lot, the best solution is for them to take their carts out early in the morning before service starts in the morning.”
Grass Valley City Councilwoman Hillary Hodge said she’s heard the Waste Management frustration from her constituents, particularly as COVID-19 restrictions keep more people at home and filling up their bins.
“I think a lot of them are right, I think we’re gonna see an increase and trash left on the side of the road,” Hodge said. “It creates kind of an unjust system if people are trying to do the right thing, and someone comes in the middle of the night to (illegally dump).”
Rosynsky said the company is collecting data on issues during the warning period which will be shared with the county and used to target additional messaging.
Hodge predicts the changes may lead residents to do some data collection of their own.
“It’s too bad, we’re probably going to end up seeing people taking their own pictures of their trash when they put it out,” Hodge said “That way if they do get any additional feedback they can say, ’I didn’t do that.’”
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.
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