Weekly comments from Dale Martin – Talkin’ trash . . .

Dale Martin
City Manager
Fernandina Beach
May 28, 2021

City Manager Dale Martin

This week, I’m gonna do some trash talkin’!

Yes, literally, I am going to discuss a variety of trash issues.

The City currently has a contract with Waste Management for garbage and recycling collection. The contract has been modified since its original signing approximately three years ago. At that time, the contract was with Advanced Disposal Services (ADS) and also included yard waste collection. Since then, ADS has been acquired by Waste Management (WM) and due to a variety of factors, yard waste collection has been stripped from the contract and is now conducted by the City.

Let me first review the residential services provided by WM. Standard collection for garbage is twice weekly, supplemented by once weekly recycling collection and once weekly bulk collection. The specific collection days vary depending upon the location in the City and the routes developed by WM with the exception of bulk waste, which is on Wednesday throughout the City.

The twice-weekly garbage collection is often raised as an opportunity to reduce garbage fees. With a small household, I often can go almost two weeks without needing to place the tote curbside for collection. On the other hand, with several resort rental properties, the twice weekly collection is highly desired.

A common perception is that by reducing the collection effort by half, the fees can be reduced by half. What is overlooked, however, is that the amount of garbage to be removed is not reduced by half: thirty pounds of trash twice per week is the same as sixty pounds of trash once per week. Past reviews and inquiries of service costs for transitioning to a single weekly collection were determined to be relatively minimal that most residents prefer the convenience of twice weekly collection.

Nearly all of the residential routes are serviced by automated self-loading (ASL) vehicles. These vehicles utilize one driver who, with the use of a mechanical lift, can retrieve and dump the tote into the vehicle. This application of technology reduces costs to WM (and other waste haulers), in part, due to fewer staff and reduced risks to that staff.

What this also means is that no one gets off the truck to collect garbage: if it’s not in the specific blue tote, it will not be collected as part of the twice weekly garbage collection. Do not stack additional garbage next to the tote. If you do, this garbage will be collected on the bulk collection day. If you have collection days on a Mon-Thu cycle, this means that if you stack garbage out of the tote on Thursday, that bulk garbage will not be collected until a week later on Wednesday. Please place your garbage in the totes.

For recycling, every residential parcel in the City has once weekly recycling collection. Commercial properties may seek recycling services on a case-by-case basis by contacting WM service representatives. The recycling totes are similar to the garbage totes with the exception of having a yellow, rather than blue, lid. The recycling totes are similarly collected by ASL vehicles. The acceptable recyclable materials are illustrated on the top of the lid.

Recycling, a noble effort initiated decades ago, is becoming problematic. the worldwide markets for recycling are diminishing in large part due to contamination of recyclable materials by other trash. This contamination can be illustrated by the accompanying photo of the City’s recycling containers that were formerly located in the southernmost parking lot near the City’s Marina. The site was becoming a trash dump due to the abuse of the site. As a result, City staff has removed those recycling containers. Again, every residential parcel has weekly recycling collection services available.

Downtown collection has been a longstanding issue: a universal solution has been evasive. Currently, garbage is collected every day from the standard blue totes. The problem of placing garbage outside the totes is a growing issue downtown: the weekly bulk waste collection is not part of WM’s commercial collection. Over the past few weeks, WM staff have reported more significant curbside disposal of trash and cardboard which is outside the scope of the contract. City Code Enforcement is working with (and citing) downtown businesses that continue to place trash curbside.

Another common violation is the placement of business trash into the ornamental sidewalk trash containers. These containers are intended for small-scale consumer use, not commercial use. With the influx of downtown visitors, additional ornamental trash cans have been placed (and more have been ordered) and the most effective placement of those containers will be reviewed to minimize unsightly overflow.
Garbage collection will continue to be an ongoing challenge, especially downtown, and City staff is already preparing for the next contract selection and negotiation when the current contract expires in roughly two years. Cooperation and consideration are key components to keep our residential and commercial areas clean and attractive.

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