Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Real World Consequences

As I have talked about before, I live in a small rural town in Oklahoma. Being a small rural town we sometimes get stuck in our ways and don't keep up with the rest of the country, and our trash service is one of those things. We still had twice a week trash pick-up and you could use any trash can or just put your bags on the curb, anything and everything would get picked up for just $17.90 a month.

This laissez-faire attitude has consequences and we are now feeling them. Our landfill is almost full, how many years are left depends on who you ask, I've heard anywhere from 5-12 years. Building a new landfill isn't easy. There is a lot of cost involved and finding somewhere that you can build it is difficult.

The city has known for a long time that this was an issue. A few years ago the city said that we would be switching to a poly cart system and once a week pick up. People weren't happy about this change and due to several kind of bazaar things it never happened. One source told me that the reason some wanted this change to happen was to slowly ease the citizens into what was an inevitable change that would have to happen due to the landfill issues.

After a fair amount of time past I found out at a recycling coalition meeting that the city was once again seeking bids to use a private trash company to prevent us needing to buy a new landfill or find another landfill we could use. The recycling coalition decided this was the perfect time to talk to the city about curbside recycling. Surely the consequences of our vast amounts of waste were very clear right now and real solutions were needed.

Coalition members talked with city council members and asked to at least get curbside recycling included in the bids. I would say we were hopeful but not terribly optimistic. We had been shot down in the past when we brought up curbside recycling and were unsure of how much support we had.

We learned shortly before a city council meeting in August that the new trash service was on the agenda and the council was set to approve a bid. Several recycling members went to the meeting to speak to the importance of increased recycling, which can be achieved through curbside recycling. We gave stats and personal stories and then held our breath as they voted, and cheered the moment it passed with not a single council member voting no. It was a wonderful moment, our hard work was paying off. However, this victory didn't come without problems.

The new service started December 1st with little warning. I received a text one day in November with a friend saying they received a poly cart and recycling bin. This was a surprise because the day before this I was a recycling meeting with the mayor and no one knew when the trash service would be starting. Also nothing had been in the newspaper or on the city website telling people the trash was changing. Only the people that had heard through word-of-mouth, Facebook, my site Green Oklahoma or had been at the council meeting knew about it.

This confused people, a lot. Inside the bins there were instructions and it told everyone what day of the week their trash would be picked up but it didn't have a date so people assumed it started right away. This caused a lot of people to not get their trash picked up and a lot of recycling went in the trash since curbside recycling hadn't started either.

Now people are complaining about anything and everything with the new trash service. The poly carts are 95 gallon but people are still saying they are to small and I have seen trash sitting on top of the poly carts and next to them. Many people don't want to have to pay for a second poly cart for their extra waste. Two citizens even went as far as to get put on the city agenda to speak about how mad they are with the changes. And some people are getting very rude and hateful with city workers.

While there are a lot of bugs that need worked out and the city and the trash company did a poor job informing people of the change, this is the consequence of our wasteful attitudes. The city was left with few choices when it learned that the landfill was getting full. We could have, and still can, extended the life by increasing recycling rates and encouraging people to waste less. This is a real life lesson that when you throw something away, it's not really going away and it will catchup to us.

I'm currently working on gathering information about trash services to compare them. If you have time please fill out this short survey to help me get the information I'm seeking. Thanks!

Photo credits: D'Arcy Norman


Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

TWICE per week pick-up? And no current recycling in 2011? Why would anyone need rubbish to be picked up that often? What on earth are folks in Oklahoma tossing out? I'm just full of questions...and shock!

Lisa Sharp said...

Tanya: I have been trying to point out to those that are upset that twice a week pick-up is pretty much unheard of. I have no idea how people are throwing this much away. I can't come close to filling my 95 gallon trash can. I do fill my 13 gallon recycling bin but not the trash can, I wish I could switch them haha. I've put in a request for a smaller trash can and second recycling bin.

A lot/maybe most of Oklahoma has once a week pick-up and the poly cart system but my small town is behind on things haha. People are really mad about this. I knew there would be issues and change doesn't go over well here but this is so much worse than I thought it would be.

Lisa Sharp said...

Oh and we did have recycling, a pretty good program really but it was drop-off only. Our recycling rates have been higher than the state average but that isn't saying a whole lot.

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

Sounds like it was handled and implemented very poorly -- no surprise with local gov't. I hope the new system survives the shock folks are experiencing. And, yes, you can't really "throw away" anything -- a good reminder.

Elizabeth said...

We have once a week garbage and recycling. We use the rolling bins, one for each. The more we recycle the better for our taxes. I think they are probably about 96 size. I remember there were 3 sizes to choose from and they said unless we wanted the small or large, we would all get the medium one.

Rosa said...

Depending on price shifts, there are years when our recycling program covers most of the costs of trash hauling. I know it's harder in rural areas because of feul/labor costs but it's hard to understand why localities would charge you to pick up your recyclables, especially if they are already sorted.

Also i think I answered a question wrong, because I didn't know what polycart was. But I think that's what we have - plastic wheeled bins.


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