By Dale Martin
June 19, 2020
A growing concern recently has been the collection of yard waste throughout the City. In many cases, the yard waste is not collected as frequently or as timely as in the past, leading to larger piles of debris in many neighborhoods. City staff continues to provide notice to the City’s sanitation contractor, Advanced Disposal Services, on a regular basis about this problem.
Advanced Disposal Services (ADS) has been the City’s contractor for many years. ADS began to serve the City when the company assumed the sanitation contract previously held by Waste Management. The current contract with ADS followed a review and selection process two years ago. Several other providers offered proposals, but all of those proposals were at a significantly higher cost to residents and businesses.
As Mr. Jeremiah Glisson, the City’s Director of Facilities, Fleet, and Sanitation often comments, sanitation is the service which directly “touches” residents and businesses the most. With approximately ten thousand property parcels in the City and with roughly four collections each week, that is forty thousand services every week. When viewed with that perspective, the number of complaints about the service is relatively small (but still important to resolve).
When complaints are presented to the City (through a variety of methods, but most typically email), City staff reviews the complaint and contacts ADS staff. ADS trucks are equipped with vehicle tracking devices and cameras, the data from which can be used, if necessary, to assist with the resolution of complaints. A senior supervisor routinely patrols the collection routes.
The recent issues with yard waste collection can be attributed to several factors. One is the pandemic. People were forced to stay home and in many instances, took that opportunity to tend to their yards, resulting in an increase of yard waste to be collected. The pandemic also affected ADS personnel, with some of their employees being quarantined due to the pandemic, leading to a reduction in services.
Another factor is illegal dumping, which ADS estimates accounts for approximately 10-15% of the collection effort. Rather than tending to yard debris themselves, some landscaping firms simply discard debris at the roadside, eliminating their cost of disposal. City staff is placing more signs and, in some areas, deploying remote cameras to discover violators. With many roads and hours of darkness, it is difficult to fully monitor. If you are aware of illegal dumping, please contact City staff (specifically the Code Enforcement Department).
Perhaps the most significant factor in the collection of yard waste, though, was the elimination of the City’s mulch site. The mulch site, located near the City Airport, was tended by City staff, which regularly plowed and turned the yard debris which was deposited by ADS after collection. The mulch site was eliminated with the implementation of the new contract.
Instead of a short trip to the Airport to empty yard debris, collection trucks now travel at least an hour (one way) to other disposal sites. With larger piles of yard debris, sometimes a truck could collect from only a few houses before having to depart. By the end of the day and due to the distance involved, that often resulted in minimal collections, contributing to an increasing backlog of debris and resident frustration. City staff assisted with collection efforts to reduce the backlog.
Based upon discussions with ADS officials, at least three options are available to resolve the collection challenge. First, maintain the status quo and be patient as collection efforts continue, likely not as frequently as desired. Second, and as many people would likely argue, enforce the contract and require ADS to meet the contractual standard.
Here’s the rub: the contract actually requires the yard waste be bagged and bundled. ADS, in an effort to continue to provide the level of service historically provided, has opted to overlook that provision, making use of the “claw” truck to collect debris. Residents like the convenience of piling yard debris at curbside (please do not block storm drains). The contract also requires that the debris be place at your curbside, not elsewhere, like medians or other property, but despite the convenience of the claw truck, it is not a nimble or precise machine, so many residents prefer the claw truck to scrape someone else’s yard. With the impending assignment of the contract to Waste Management (Waste Management is acquiring ADS next month), Waste Management officials may insist on adhering to the terms of the contract (bag and bundle).
A third option is to increase the fee for collection to maintain the desired level of service. What fee and level of service will likely have to wait until the contractual transition to Waste Management.
The collection of yard waste is a desired effort. The current program, though, is likely to continue to fail to achieve the level of service and quality desired by most residents. How the collection will change going forward will be determined over the next several weeks.