collection: How to Collect Yard Waste at No Extra Cost

Here's the scenario: to meet state recycling goals, your city banned yard waste at the local private landfill and, of course, you have to collect it, plus everything else with the same (or less) funds.

Sound familiar? It certainly does to the solid waste managers at the city of Louisville, Ky.

Following the 1991 state bill requiring local solid waste management plan development that included 25 percent waste reduction, the Jefferson County, Ky., solid waste board banned yard waste disposal.

Knowing that this move would demand significant revisions to its current collection methods, Louisville, the county seat, along with a local engineering firm developed a routing scheme that would provide separate yard waste and garbage collection at no additional cost.

The consultant initially developed 16 options, ranging from twice-a-week garbage collection with an additional separate yard waste collection, to a fully-automated once-a-week system. After review by the mayor, the once-a-week option was selected.

This would allow the city to provide separate yard waste collection, collect garbage once-a-week and move to a five-day work week (from its current six-day schedule). The city's existing recycling collection contract would be rebid with either the city or a private contractor providing collection once-a-week.

At public hearings, the plan was strongly opposed. Despite the negative response, the administration and the Board of Alderman agreed to try the new system for one year.

Beginning in March 1994, four mailers were sent to every household to inform residents of the ban and the need to collect yard waste and garbage separately. Residents were told that the their garbage, yard waste and recycling pick-up days would change. A color-coded calendar illustrating collection days for rest of 1994 and 1995 were mailed.

The city started the new collection program in September 1994. In addition, the city began requiring all garbage to be containerized to allay fears that the new collection system would lead to increased litter and trash in alleys and streets.

Because of continued citizen opposition during the first year, the Aldermen commissioned the University of Louisville to study public opinion on solid waste issues.

Using a series of focus groups, the university discovered that citizens had adapted to once-a-week garbage pickup. However, the study suggested that citizens would accept this system more easily if they better understood the reasons for separate collection and the benefits of recycling. An environmental education program was recommended.

At the end of the test, the Department of Solid Waste Management and Services (DSWMS) reported that the new collection system diverted 24.5 percent (13,574 tons) of household wastes (14.9 percent yard waste and 9.6 percent recyclables). It also addressed the rise of customer complaints made to CityCALL, the mayor's complaint and information line, from 2,383 the preceding year to 7,561 during the transition year. It explained that, with 180,000 service calls a week, the complaints amount only to .08 percent of the service calls made by DSWMS for the entire year.

Also of note: The union, which was originally against the once-a-week program, was in favor of staying with the program. Employees had become accustomed to the five-day schedule. The administration, the union and the aldermen agreed to continue the program with some new directives which required the DSWMS to:

* respond to complaints within a 24 hour period;

* develop a method of responding to the odor problems of once-a-week garbage pickup during the summer months;

* submit detailed bi-weekly reports to the mayor and Board of Aldermen.

* begin a strong enforcement program which would include empowering supervisors and inspectors to write citations; and

* start-up a full-scale public relations plan.

And the effect on costs? With the new system in place, the city avoided a $900,000 expenditure which would have been required to add additional crews and equipment to collect yard waste in addition to twice-a-week garbage collection. During this same period, the city's recycling contract was rebid resulting in the city saving $800,000 annually.

1 - B. Federal purchases represent 7-8 percent of GNP, state and local about 12-13 percent. These numbers show the dramatic effect that government purchases of recycled and other environmental products can have on the marketplace. More importantly, however, government agencies develop standards used by the private sector and can serve as a model for private sector purchases.

2 - C. On November 13, 1997, EPA published the final Comprehensive Procurement Guideline II and the Final Recovered Materials Advisory Notice II designating 12 additional product areas for government agencies to purchase containing recovered materials.

3 - C. All 50 states and at least 500 local governments in the United States have buy recycled programs.

4 - C. All steel manufactured in the United States uses recycled material: Steel manufactured in the basic oxygen furnace uses an average of 25 percent recycled steel, while the electric arc furnace uses virtually 100 percent recycled material.

5 - B. Ford, GM and Chrysler have all published letters stating that any oil that meets American Petroleum Industry standards will not void your warranty.

Questions courtesy of Maryland Environmental Services. For more information, contact: Richard Keller, 2011 Commerce Dr., Annapolis, Md. 21401. (410) 974-7281. Fax: (410) 974-7267.