Majority Want Changes to Solid Waste Pick Up Policies

The city of Davis made a number of changes to their solid waste pick up policies and pickup service.  During their review in December, members of the URAC (Utility Rate Advisory Commission) requested the city prepare and utilize a survey to get a better feel of how customers would respond to different options, and how they use the current system.

A community survey was developed and released in April.  The survey received over 1100 responses.

The survey found that most people were using their carts.

“More than half of the respondents (nearly 64%) reported using their carts every week for yard materials, while the majority (80%) reported use at least every other week. Overall, the cart will accommodate the materials the majority of the time, with 68% of households reporting they have enough space in the cart at least most of the time, versus 32% reporting only half or less of the materials fit,” staff reports.

They found, based on the survey, “yard materials would not fit in the cart only 3-4 times per year, and generally this time is Fall.”

The big question was “should the service change?”  The city, in a staff report from earlier this summer, reports, “When asked for a preference between the three options of keeping the loose in street service as is, modifying the service, or eliminating the service, the total households responding to the survey indicated a clear preference for modifying the existing service.”

The breakdown went: 25 percent to keep the service the same, 60 percent for modification and less than 10 percent for elimination.

The biggest requested change was: “keeping the current loose in the street pickup schedule, but extending the leaf season by an additional four weeks, into January.”

The second highest response was: “to eliminate the loose on the street pickup during non-leaf season, but extend the ‘leaf season’ pickup by four weeks, into January.”

Some other comments:

  • Some respondents see the introduction of the organics program in 2016, and specifically the alteration of the loose in the street pickup schedule, as a reduction in service
  • Residents voiced concerns around having to schedule yard work around the collection times
  • There were requests for more frequent street sweeping, and street sweeping after the loose in the street pickup
  • Issues were raised related to enforcement (piles on the street too early, too long, etc.)
  • Concerns were voiced regarding the use of carts (too heavy, difficult to store etc.)
  • The need for special pickups for Christmas trees (into January)

Based on these survey results, staff recommends the following options be considered by the council:

  1. No change to loose in the street yard material pile collection service
  2. Keep current schedule, but extend leaf season weekly collection schedule by four weeks
  3. Only collect during leaf season, and extend season by four weeks
  4. Eliminate loose in the street yard material pile collection service

Staff writes: “While the choice to eliminate the service was not ranked highly by the community responses, it provides an important comparison of the costs of service for the program. Comparing the cost of solid waste service without loose in the street collection to the cost of yard material pile collection options gives perspective on the actual costs for ratepayers for the service.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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27 thoughts on “Majority Want Changes to Solid Waste Pick Up Policies”

  1. Don Shor

    Based on these survey results, staff recommends the following:

    probably should read:

    Based on these survey results, staff recommends the following options to the council:

  2. Ron

    The biggest requested change was: “keeping the current loose in the street pickup schedule, but extending the leaf season by an additional four weeks, into January.”

     
    Definitely needed.  It’s a lot more than just leaves, since January is also an ideal time to prune bushes and trees (during winter dormancy – and after their leaves have dropped). It is not possible to stuff all of that into those carts.

    Leaves are much easier to put into the carts, than branches.
     

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron, late September will be the 20th anniversary of green cart usage and I have had no problem with pruned branches at all over those 20 years.  Use your loppers or hand pruners to cut the branches into 2.5 foot long segments, which lay flat on the bottom/floor of the green can (or at any vertical level from the bottom to the top of the can.  If you throw in branches randomly with lengths longer than the width of the green can floor you will have lots of inefficient air spaces.  Think like a spreadsheet and organize your branches in the green can like the rows of that spreadsheet. That has worked like a charm for me for 20 years.

    2. Ron

      Matt: I use the “cut and cram” method.  Just kidding.

      During heavy pruning (e.g., larger trees, during the winter dormancy period), there’ simply too much to fit into the bin.  (No – I’m not shoving logs into it.)  🙂

      It’s only been a couple of years or so since the weekly street pick-up was discontinued and replaced with those bins (except for the too-short “leaf drop/branch” period).

  3. Todd Edelman

    * My understanding is that many yards would do well if leaves that fall are left to “age in place”, resulting in more nutrition for lawns and play spaces for bugs, less leaf-blowing, less pick-up needed. Certainly there need to exceptions to any rules, but – generally-speaking – what are the negatives of this kind of policy change?

    * My roommates tend to have quite incomplete education about recycling rules — there needs to be more education (which is outreach + facts “aging in place”).

    * The bins against the curb in too marginal bike lanes still creates dangerous situations – I would like the container lift on trucks to have an adaptation or re-design that allows it to pick up containers that are on the other side of the sidewalk from the curb, on the property of the relevant owners. Creating safer cycling conditions in existing neighborhoods allows people to “age in place” so that don’t have to be moved to the landfill in the northside of town, the northwest… i.e. WDAAC… the people landfill. I am 100% against treating people like trash, out of sight/out of mind…

    1. Ron

      * The bins against the curb in too marginal bike lanes still creates dangerous situations – I would like the container lift on trucks to have an adaptation or re-design that allows it to pick up containers that are on the other side of the sidewalk from the curb, on the property of the relevant owners.

      Do you mean for all of the containers (e.g., garbage, recycling, and green waste)?

      This suggestion is not likely to be implemented – too expensive/complicated.

      I can understand the concern on major bicycle thoroughfares, but not so much on quieter, wider, and less-trafficked streets (where it’s relatively safe/easy to go around piles and carts).

       

      1. Alan Miller

        I don’t understand half of TE’s post at all, but the point about containers creating dangerous situations in marginal bike lanes is quite real.  Good example of this is Sunday evenings along the narrow bike lane on the south side of busy 8th Street between B and F Streets.

      2. Howard P

        Technically, the street adjacent to the curb IS on private property, which is encumbered with a street right of way…

        Ron, am using your quote from Todd, and your comment, to point out problem with Todd’s ‘theory’, not taking issue with your post… just felt like a convenient place to educate folk…

    2. Howard P

      First point:  lawns will get diseased/die, if leaves are left to “age in place”… or is that your intent?  Don can weigh in… mulched leaves, applied properly, or composted, can be beneficial.

      Second point:  why are you not working to educate them?

      Third point:  getting on/riding a bicycle is potentially dangerous; riding a bike on the street or on a bikepath is potentially dangerous; bicycle riding on a street with parked cars is potentially dangerous; riding a bike after dark with no light, no reflectors,wearing dark clothing, is potentially dangerous; breathing in the valley (particularly when riding a bicycle outside) while there are fires in the area, is potentially dangerous; life is so dangerous, it usually ends in death!

    3. Don Shor

      My understanding is that many yards would do well if leaves that fall are left to “age in place”, resulting in more nutrition for lawns and play spaces for bugs, less leaf-blowing, less pick-up needed.

      Absolutely. Smaller leaves can simply be mowed into the lawn, even surprisingly large amounts. Larger leaves may need to be raked up and piled in corners of the yard, or spread around on the bare soil under shrubs or in the vegetable garden and allowed to decompose naturally. One season’s winter rainfall is usually sufficient for them to decompose in place. They enhance soil organic content, feed worms and beneficial soil fungus, and more. By far the best thing to do, if you can, is leave the leaves and let them return to the soil.
      If they aren’t too wet, most people find that even larger leaves can be composted right into the lawn if you make multiple passes over them with the lawn mower. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKii8Gea8dA
      Small yards with large trees may be a problem with simply too much leaf matter. But leaves are always good for the soil and it’s really a waste to send them away.

  4. Jim Hoch

    “containers that are on the other side of the sidewalk from the curb, on the property of the relevant owners.”

    Have you considered that there are parked cars? If the bins are in the street then cars to not matter but if they are on the other side of the sidewalk…

    1. Todd Edelman

      So many co-comments, thanks!

      Thus:

      * The modified mechanism would be for use for all containers in locations/situations of which Alan gave a great example, on collectors – or perhaps just major and minor arterial streets where containers block the bike lane. 5th St between I and L also comes to mind as a specific stretch…
      * Last year one of the main tree experts from the City told me that many lawns do better with leaves, mulched in situ by lawnmowers, and – of course – children playing the yards of their grandparents who are aging in place. Perhaps tree/lawn combinations could be evaluated and process determined which fits? (Great task for botanically-oriented grad. students?)
      * Or – yes, thanks – composted in situ.
      *
      Cyclists, like leaves, should be allow to die, fall and be re-born, without interference from narcissism, or – far below Howard P.’s normal level of reason – classified via hyper-generalization into a meaningless mud of lazy relativity.

      1. Ron

        Todd:  “Last year one of the main tree experts from the City told me that many lawns do better with leaves, mulched in situ by lawnmowers,”

        During the late fall/winter, lawns and leaves can become so wet and saturated that it’s essentially not possible to mow.  And, lawns start suffocating at some point.

        A lot of the leaves and branches in front yards are from trees which border sidewalks/streets/bike lanes (not necessarily back lawns), providing needed shade for all. Some of these trees are required/mandated by the city, even though they’re in private front yards. (The city is supposed to trim those trees, but homeowners are responsible for removing leaves and branches which fall on their property).

        The carts aren’t going anywhere, as a result of the proposed changes.  The proposal that apparently garnered the most support is the one to extend the weekly loose-leaf (branch) pickups into January.

        1. Don Shor

          During the late fall/winter, lawns and leaves can become so wet and saturated that it’s essentially not possible to mow. And, lawns start suffocating at some point.

          Absolutely. And some species such as mulberries don’t drop their leaves fully until we’re well into the rainy season. So those need to be raked off and dealt with. They will exclude light and the lawn will suffer. At a house I lived in with two fruitless mulberries, we raked up all the leaves from the front, hauled them around to the back, and spread them out over the vegetable garden. It enhanced the soil considerably. Again, some people may have yards where that isn’t practical for one reason or another.
          IMO pruning is the biggest issue with the current pickup schedule. I’d advise more people to adopt summer pruning of fruit trees, as it reduces the work and volume of debris created in winter. But the pruning season for dormant trees extends further into winter than the current pickup schedule covers.

        2. Ron

          Don:  “But the pruning season for dormant trees extends further into winter than the current pickup schedule covers.”

          That’s really my only complaint, regarding the current pickup schedule.

          Leaves can be put into the cart (or composted in yards).  Branches/prunings are much more challenging.

          I recall this same discussion, when the city eliminated the weekly loose-pile pickup for most of the year.  It is no surprise that the primary request is to restore this pickup into the month of January, at least.

          I’ve been resisting the urge (so far) to make a sarcastic comment regarding the future (when yards will be entirely outlawed). They’re working on it – in reference to the cost of water, reducing pickups of green waste, etc. (O.K. – I’m not actually “resisting” the comment.)

      2. Alan Miller

        Cyclists, like leaves, should be allow to die, fall and be re-born, without interference from narcissism

        That’s beautiful.  364 more and you’ll have completed your book of daily affirmations.

        1. Ron

          Todd already has a head-start on these.  Maybe 50 or so, by this point.  One of the better creative writers on here, and without some of the mean-spiritedness that’s sometimes on display on this blog. (Not directed at anyone.)

  5. John Hobbs

    I will just point out that the biggest benefit of containerizing yard waste is to the can manufacturer and vendor. Having worked in the industry for 15 years I can assure you that waste removal is a favorite legitimate cover for organized crime, for a reason.

    1. Jeff M

      Funny stuff.  One of my arguments against the containers (other than the fact that the city is taking up valuable space in my tiny Davis-sized yard to store their big ugly containers made from fossil fuels) was that they would pose more hard danger to a biker rider than would the average soft pile of organic green matter.   That argument was rejected by the extreme bike rider activist club where they embellished stories of near death experience colliding with these “dangerous” green piles.

      No surprise they are back attacking the big bins made of petroleum products.

      1. Alan Miller

        As a cyclist, I have hit those piles of leaves and nearly toppled a few times.  They aren’t supposed to be out there.

        But truth be told, riding at night you need a beam headlight that lights up the road, or slow down in dark areas.  There are other hazards besides piles. (Sticks, stones, broken bones.) Rider responsibility.

  6. Laurie Rollins

    We were discussing this issue over dinner tonight.  It occurs to us that this issue is being analyzed in the same way as other services.  That is, everyone’s needs are basically the same.  We all use about the same amount of water per person.  We all generate roughly the same amount of sewage per person.  We all use the streets roughly the same amount.

    Yard waste is different.  Some yards (like ours) generate perhaps 100 times the yard waste of a newly landscaped house or the shared landscaping of a duplex or apartment.  A few houses have large piles, while many have no pile at all.  I would venture to say that the costs of street pickup are more closely related to the number of houses from whom pickup is made, rather than the total number of houses “the claw” passes by.  Maybe the people who need more street pickup should pay some modest amount for that weekly/biweekly service.  We’d be willing to pay for the extra service that many don’t seem to need.

  7. Richard McCann

    The Utility Rates Advisory Commission (URAC) and Natural Resources Commission (NRC) will be looking at the options for the LITS program on Monday September 10 in special joint meeting. As a member of the URAC, we can use more public input from ALL sides on this issue. (I don’t yet have the meeting details.)

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