Archive for Monday, December 6, 2010

Messy business

Finding the best, most cost-effective way to deal with trash isn’t as easy as it sounds.

December 6, 2010


There may be a few Lawrence residents who are such conscientious composters and recyclers that they have no use for municipal trash collection, but for most of us, having someone pick up trash that we leave at the alley or curb is a basic city service.

That’s why anytime city officials consider making a significant change in that service, they need to be aware that they are affecting almost every taxpayer in the community and they are bound to be making someone unhappy.

Nonetheless, Lawrence city commissioners are once again preparing to dive into the trash debate. It seems simple enough: Send trucks and workers throughout the city, pick up the trash, take it to the dump. Unfortunately, a rising demand for recycling and rising costs for collecting and dumping trash have made this a much more complicated issue.

A new city report looks at three options for basic trash services. Two of those options would require residents to rent plastic trash carts that can be grabbed and emptied by robotic trucks operated by a single driver without helpers throwing trash into the truck. After the initial investment, that would save the city money, but it also would put city trash collectors out of a job.

It’s also a little trickier for a robotic arm to grab the trash. In fact, city officials believe that in some neighborhoods, it will be next to impossible if cars are parked along the curb. One option is to use the automated trucks everywhere in the city; another is to use them in most areas but use traditional trucks in areas where on-street parking is critical.

How would that be determined? Most residents who have more cars in their family than they have garage space probably thinks on-street parking is critical. Presumably, a no-parking rule would be enforced only on trash day, but letting trash pickups dictate no-parking zones seems like a questionable policy.

The report also looks at encouraging residents to reduce their trash by charging higher rent on larger trash containers. That is fair and would help promote recycling in the city.

Oh, yes, recycling. We haven’t even touched on the various options for having the city or a private contractor provide curbside recycling citywide. The problems associated with collecting and processing recyclable materials may argue for turning the whole effort over to a private contractor, but the city still is responsible for making sure residents are receiving an acceptable level of service at a reasonable price.

Who knew trash was so complicated? Taxpayers, of course, have an interest in this service being delivered in the most cost-effective manner possible, but they may question the need to change a service that already seems to be working pretty well.

Dealing with trash is a messy job. City commissioners aren’t wrong to tackle this problem, but it may not be so easy to come up with a solution that satisfies everyone.


LadyJ 5 years, 10 months ago

I often see sanitation workers picking up trash on the ground as they drive along. Can the robotic arm do this too? How long will it take the trucks to do a route? Will we need more routes and trucks if the robotic trucks take a lot longer than regular trucks with 1 or 2 workers on the back?

thatonedude 5 years, 10 months ago

Out of curiosity, would that inventor be you?

Maddy Griffin 5 years, 10 months ago

At least the ones sitting at local parks with their snow plows up and the engine running all night. What a waste of manpower, money and fuel. I know one guy who brags about how much he makes each winter volunteering for snow duty and reading the paper in his truck overnight.

Centerville 5 years, 10 months ago

Keep trash pickup separate from recycling. Let each household pay the city for the trash pickup and a private firm for the the recycling. Have the pickups on separate days, too.

Ralph Reed 5 years, 10 months ago

Hey, give the commissioners a break. A couple of them are doing the best they can to dismantle one of our city services that actually does fairly well.

Last I heard Deffenbaugh was trying make inroads in Lawrence, starting with recycling and weaseling their way in from there. There are a lot of good comments/reviews on Deffenbaugh, here are a few: As you can see, their service, customer service and employee relations are all par excellence. To top it off, as near as I can tell they're not even owned in the US. That's just what we need. Other cities contract with foreign-owned companies, why should we be left behind?

pizzapete 5 years, 10 months ago

Rent a cart? No way. The system we have now is working fine, so there is no need to change it.

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