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Our View: Garbage in, garbage out

Who knew taking out the trash would cause this much drama?

Trash might not be the best word for it. It’s not all trash. Not exactly.

It’s also your recyclables — the old milk cartons, the beer cans, the glass bottles. All the stuff you set aside because you’re a good steward of the Earth.



Then there’s the yard waste: small limbs, leaves, tree and brush cuttings. They get a separate cart as well.

These carts — regular trash, recycling and yard waste — are stirring up enough drama to make Shakespeare blush.




Waste Management, the company that collects our trash in western Nevada County, is changing the rules. No more plastic bags in recycling bins. Stop tossing the food scraps and polysterene foam in there, too.

Expect some changes for the yard waste bin as well. No more palm leaves, poison oak or scotch broom are allowed.

Scotch broom? Well, then what are we supposed to do with this stuff?

Wait just a bit. There’s a method behind the trash madness.

Waste Management says the improper disposal of certain items affects its processes. Put scotch broom in the yard waste bin, and it messes with composting everything.

So, put the scotch broom, and other undesirable yard waste, in the regular trash bin. It’ll still get taken away.

Likewise, watch what you toss in the recycling bin, and make sure you’re abiding by the rules.

But above all, ensure the lids on your bins close properly. Big Brother is watching.

Really, he is. There are cameras on the Waste Management vehicles.

Maybe you’ve already gotten a letter about an overfilled or contaminated bin. These, for now, are merely educational. Shape up now, before the boom is lowered.

Because starting April 5, Waste Management will begin tallying the letters people receive. The first two warnings are freebies. After that, you could get a $10.32 fine for each one. Get three letters about contaminated bins, you might have your cart hauled away, with a $25.79 charge for the convenience.

Few people like change, especially when it comes with fines. But Waste Management isn’t the government. You can call them, email them, express your outrage, but we’d expect little to come of it.

You want change, you’ve got to go to the people holding the purse strings. In this case, that’s the Board of Supervisors.

But what is it that the community wants?

Conspiracy theories aside, Waste Management isn’t making these changes out of some Machiavellian deviousness. They’re happening because the company deems them necessary, and has instituted fines to put some teeth into the new rules.

Recycling has become a tough business over the past several years. If we care enough about doing it, we should not only be willing to pay for it, but also do it right.

However, Waste Management needs to do a better job of informing its customers why they’re making these changes. A letter about the changes, and the fines that come with noncompliance, doesn’t do the trick.

A public webinar could very well help. Submit your questions in advance, and tune in for the answers.

People want to know what’s causing this. Is it the tightening of the recycling market? Maybe the inability to process recyclables if they’ve been contaminated? Perhaps it’s the difficulties caused by trying to collect overfilled bins, with trash falling to the ground?

Whatever the causes, Waste Management needs a more thorough communication plan. Telling people the reasons would go a long way to calming tempers and easing headaches.

And it just might remove some of the drama, too.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com


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