The city of Lawrence’s new schedule for collecting yard waste is a sensible move that offers efficiencies and should keep rates lower. However, the city commission should have given greater notice and taken more public input before implementing changes that have such broad impact.
Starting May 1, leaves, grass, tree branches and other yard waste will be picked up by the city on the same day as trash and recycling. Historically, the city has collected yard waste on Mondays.
Other changes include that all waste — garbage, recycling and yard waste — must be placed at the curbside by 6 a.m. on the day of collection instead of 7 a.m. Also, residents cannot use their own trash containers for yard waste, which will only be collected if placed in a city yard waste cart, in brown recyclable bags or in bundles that meet city guidelines for weight and length.
The City Commission approved the changes Tuesday. The city plans to include an informational insert about the changes in utility bills next month.
The item was approved with little discussion. The changes were included as part of the commission’s consent agenda — a group of action items which require little discussion and are generally approved in a single vote — until a resident asked that the item be discussed independently. After the resident asked her question, commissioners approved the changes unanimously without further discussion.
It would have been preferable for the city commission to publicize the proposed changes and take public comment prior to voting to implement the changes.
There are certainly concerns with the plan. Monday is an ideal day for yard waste collection because most residents do yard work on the weekends and could count on waste being collected almost immediately. Now, residents who have trash collection later in the week will either have to store yard waste or leave it curbside for several days. Also, the city’s decision to require city yard waste carts or brown paper bags will cost some residents. The city charges $60 for its cart.
The benefits of the changes are that they allow the city to reduce route costs and staff schedules, making waste collection more efficient. That should result in rate benefits for residents. For neighborhoods, the changes reduce the number of days that garbage and waste are curbside.
To help address residents’ concerns about the changes the city should consider adding Sunday or Monday hours for its Compost Facility on 11th Street, which is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays now. That would give residents more flexibility in dropping off yard waste as an alternative to waiting for curbside collection.