Sacramento’s Curbside Waste Debacle


The good news is that the city has finally awakened to the fact that its current curbside waste collection program is a debacle and is planning to do something about it.

Why is it a debacle?

First, citizens were given a choice of a yard waste container. As it stands, today approximately 7% of residents refuse to get and use a yard waste container. I’m shocked it’s this low. This should never have happened. It should have been required from the beginning. You simply can’t give citizens a choice for something as costly and important as waste collection.

Second, too many citizens do not follow the rules and continue putting waste in the gutter for future pickup – even those who have a container.

Third, many hired gardeners and tree and shrub trimmers don’t know the rules and continue putting yard and tree waste in the gutter. Why not? It’s not their neighborhood.

One neighbor, who wishes to remain anonymous, states, “I am always telling my gardener to put the lawn clippings and weeds in the container, yet he refuses and continues to put my yard waste in the street, leaving the green can empty each week. It builds up over time since the city doesn’t come around to pick up street waste every week.”

Fourth, retaining the claw and truck for a few citizens fails to reduce costs to the level possible.

Fifth, there is mass confusion over the handling of leaves as some trees belong to the city while others belong to the residents.

Sixth, putting yard and tree waste in the gutters creates driving hazards, parking hazards, fire hazards, and clogs the storm drains.

Here are some examples of the problems as I see it.

This first photo shows a fairly large pile of yard trimmings placed in the gutter a few hours after the claw came by and made its periodic pickup. Now I’m not certain if this homeowner has a yard waste container or not. But, there are at least two issues here. First, this homeowner uses a yard service. If a yard container isn’t in use at this resident, the yard service should haul away this debris. It should be mandatory. Second, if this homeowner doesn’t have a container and is among the 7%, he or she should not be allowed to clutter the gutter until the week of the designated pick-up. Neighbors don’t want to see or smell the smoldering pile of lawn and shrub waste for several weeks.

This second photo depicts what I consider the most egregious misuse of the curbside pickup program. As you can see from this massive pile of debris, the owner of this property should be required by law to pay to have this mess disposed of properly immediately. Instead, he or she is trying to save a few dollars by dumping this mess in the curb for the taxpayers to clean up. He or she should be cited and fined heavily to prevent it from happening again. A $500 first-time fine should suffice.

The point here is quite simple – it should be the homeowner’s responsibility to either pay the person or company doing the work to haul away this debris or the homeowner should have to pay to have a waste dumpster delivered prior to the work being done. NO EXCEPTIONS.

What’s going to happen here is that this huge pile will sit for weeks until the claw finally comes around and spends precious time and effort putting this stuff into the city truck to be hauled away.

What should happen is that the claw operator should dump each load back into the yard from which it came. This would guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again.

Curbwaste abuseThis third photo shows a common situation which really aggravates me. Look at the small size of this pile. I see them all over the city. These small piles are why the city went to a yard waste container. These small piles should never be allowed in the curbs. It’s a colossal waste of time and money to send the claw up and down the streets of the city picking-up small piles like this. It’s an abuse of the program. It shocks me that we have citizens who believe this is some right of theirs. It’s tantamount to littering.

Personally, I believe it should be a requirement that all renters and homeowners be collectively required to keep the gutters and drain covers clean at all times on the block in which they live. Imagine how neat and clean our city would look to everyone.

I know some of you reading this will think I’m being draconian in my approach to handling the disposal of yard waste but I prefer to think of it as being pragmatic or realistic.

Our city, like most others around California and the rest of the country are facing massive shortfalls in revenue. Yet the costs to run the city continue to rise. This problem isn’t going to fix itself in the near future – if ever. So for now, the folks running the city must take action to reduce costs in every way possible. This means making some hard, tough decisions.

One of these hard, tough decisions has to do with the handling of yard waste. And the citizens shouldn’t be given a choice in this particular issue. It’s a simple, straightforward issue with an easy solution.

With the exception of leaves in the fall, there should never be any yard waste placed in the gutters for curbside pickup. Every household (owner or rental) must have a large yard waste container that is used for yard waste. If the waste for a week is too great for the container, what doesn’t fit is held over until the next week. But here’s a better idea. Get out of your houses and meet your neighbors. Agree to share containers when needed. We do this on our block and it works fine.

Next, it should be mandatory that persons hired to do yard work and tree and shrub trimming be required to haul away any debris that does not fit into the yard waste container. It’s that simple! If they can’t haul it away, the homeowner or property owner should be required to rent a huge container box for major yard projects like shown in photo #2 above.

It irritates me when I hear homeowners complain about losing services like the claw. Forget about the way it was done in the past. Those days are over. Times have changed. We must move forward with a new program that works for everybody while costing the city (which means us taxpayers) as little as possible. We need to push more of the costs onto the property owners which is only fair.

Those of us with smaller yards and fewer trees shouldn’t have to subsidize those property owners with larger yards, many trees, and neglected yards that get attention infrequently.


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