How Two Cities Deal With Oversize Waste

For some municipalities, haulers, and waste management districts, oversize waste items (furniture, mattresses, appliances, etc.) can pose some headaches. For others, creative programs make dealing with such waste less of a challenge.

Credit: Auburn AL

City of Greenville
According to Mildred Lee, solid waste and recycling manager for the public works department of the City of Greenville, SC, specialty collections comprise a small percentage of its overall curbside collection program. Per city ordinance, a limited amount of oversized items can be placed at the curb for collection on the customer’s regular collection day, as long as the customer calls the office ahead of time to schedule it.

“In our experience, limiting the amount of oversized items that can be placed at the curb has been an effective strategy,” says Lee. “We permit the disposal of the equivalent of one room of oversized items at the curb. Beyond that, the customer is responsible for the disposal of any additional items.”

In the past, the City used “rear loader” garbage trucks for specialty collections. However, rising workers’ compensation costs and lost time from work due to employees’ handling these items prompted a change. “We now utilize a PAC-MAC clam truck ‘knuckle boom’ loader for specialty collection service,” she says. “Reducing the number of staff needed to provide the service, and a ‘hands off’ approach are proving to be successful strategies.”

One of the most common issues the City faces relates to customers placing oversized items at the curb without scheduling with the City ahead of time. Another is oversized items being illegally dumped. A third is customers placing construction and demolition waste, which the city does not collect, per city ordinance, at the curb.

How does the department deal with these problems? “Cart tags identifying infractions are left on customer homes, and efforts are taken to help residents get it right,” says Lee. “Educating the public regarding acceptable municipal solid waste items per our curbside collection program through social media outlets, the City’s website, cart tags, and site visits are good utilization tools.”

“Word of mouth” is also helpful. However, when outreach efforts fail for items contrary to the City’s solid waste programs, the Public Works department relies on the City’s Code Enforcement Division for compliance. “In the future, as regards the program as a whole, we are looking at different scenarios, including the possibility of moving to a fee-based system for specialty collections,” says Lee.

City of Auburn
The City of Auburn, AL, (population 62,000) services about 14,500 residential customers, which consist primarily of single-family detached homes, duplexes, and townhouses, as well as about 200 small commercial customers (insurance companies, medical offices, law offices, and such). “Apartments, multiplexes, industry, and large commercial properties in the City are serviced by private haulers,” says Timothy Woody, environmental services director for the City.

How big of an issue is oversize collections? Being that Auburn is a college town, it’s a pretty big deal. “We allow residents to place bulky items and yard waste at curbside for collection each week, where we collect household garbage, bulky items, yard waste, and recycling on a weekly basis,” says Woody. Bulky/yard waste volumes are limited to five cubic yards per week per residence. In most areas, regardless of the time of year, material is placed out according to policy.

The City also currently offers a Trash Amnesty Week each spring, when residents can place out as much bulky/yard waste as they would like during the week. “This is a ‘spring cleanup,’ if you will,” he says. There is no extra charge for this. However, the City typically charges $50 per one-half trailer load and $100 per trailer load/return trip for oversized debris piles.

“We are looking at expanding this program next year to last a longer period of time—an entire month—to facilitate then needs of the growing community and to help promote neighborhood cleaning and aesthetics,” says Woody.

In addition, for the last few years, Woody’s department has been working with other City departments to do a “neighborhood cleanup project” each year. “Working with Codes Enforcement, Public Works, Public Safety-Fire Division, and Parks & Recreation, we promote a cleanup project in neighborhoods where we collect bulky and yard waste generated from property cleanups, identify code-related issues, and work with property owners to bring things up to code,” he says.

This also involves painting fire hydrants, repairing sidewalks, curbs, gutters, and asphalt. It also involves planting trees, mowing grass, sweeping streets, trimming trees, upgrading street signs, etc.

In terms of equipment, for large items, the department has found that knuckle boom loaders tend to work best, with the assistance of a tow truck. The Ramer 3500 (manufactured by Ramer Manufacturing at Ramer, AL) knuckle boom loader, with a 20-cubic-yard trailer attached, will collect items from residences and then, when loaded, the two truck will switch out an empty trailer with the loader and haul the full trailer to the recycling/disposal site.

However, despite its multiple efforts to collect large waste items, the City does face two large challenges. One is the improper placement of material for collection, such as material placed in the street, on sidewalks, or too close to utilities. The other is that, when it comes to end-of-semester at Auburn University, residents tend to place out large volumes of material beyond the 5-cubic-yard limit, scattered debris, and such.

How did the department attempt to deal with these problems? “A number of years ago, we attempted to place roll-off containers in neighborhoods where the majority of residents were students, for use by the students who were moving out at the end of the Auburn University semester,” he says.

However, this didn’t work out as planned. Residents would place material on the ground around the container, instead of in the container, even when the container was not full. This opened the door to scavengers and other problems that created a somewhat not-so-clean environment. “Needless to say, we scrapped that idea,” he says.

These days, education is the key, as well as prompt follow-up when problems are identified. Whenever a new resident moves into a home, they make contact with the City to initiate solid waste collection services. “We use that opportunity to provide information about all of our programs, which emphasizes bulky and yard waste collection guidelines, along with garbage and recycling,” says Woody. “After that, if and when we identify a problem, our collection personnel will leave hang-tags notifying the resident about a problem and how to remedy it in order for prompt collection to occur.”MSW_bug_web

  • Clint White.

    I always thought that arming each garbage truck staff with a camera phone would be the ideal solution. They can post up the items to the FreeList on their local social media (facebook or craigslist), tag the item with the date, and remove it X number of days later if the society doesn’t take it for re-use/recycle. In this manner we can keep injury low, landfills less full, and people can have less financial burden for the things they need.

    • Since there are few places in a municipality that garbage trucks don’t travel on a routine basis. It seems to me that there are a host of civil tasks that they could perform, among which a infrastructural defects or deficiencies.


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