Almanac

News - January 12, 2011

Officials optimistic about new trash collector

by Caitilin McAdoo

A switch to a new garbage and recycling service provider that began Jan 3 in parts of San Mateo County has seen some glitches, but officials have said they are confident the problems will be worked out.

Recology San Mateo County is providing the new service to 92,000 residential customers and more than 10,000 commercial customers in Atherton, Menlo Park, the West Bay Sanitary District, East Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Carlos, Belmont, San Mateo, Burlingame, Foster City, Hillsborough, and parts of unincorporated San Mateo County.

Recology took over the service from Allied Waste after being awarded a 10-year contract with a $51 million base compensation for the first year, according to Monica Devincenzi, recycling outreach and sustainability manager for the South Bayside Waste Management Authority, a joint powers authority known as RethinkWaste.

The new automated service offers improved recycling services, including weekly pickup of recycling and green waste.

It also offers expanded green waste recycling that includes food waste and even pizza boxes.

With the new system, customers no longer have to separate recyclables such as bottles, cans and paper by type and can instead throw them all into a single bin that can be wheeled out to the curb.

"Overall the service has been going pretty well," Ms. Devincenzi said.

She noted that Recology has received numerous complaints from customers, mainly for missed pickups, but said that the company has been proactive about responding to those complaints.

One issue customers have had is that when they call to report a problem, they can't get through to anyone. Recology has brought in 15 additional customer service representatives over the past few days, and on Jan. 6, the company put 11 additional trucks on the street to pick up garbage that had been missed, Ms. Devincenzi said.

Hold times for customer service are now less than a minute, she said.

Gina Simi, a spokeswoman for Recology, said that some customers had experienced missed pickups the week before Recology began its service, which accounts for some of the complaints.

Some elderly people and people with disabilities who previously had backyard pickup with Allied Waste did not get backyard pickup last week, Ms. Devincenzi said.

Recology is working on updating its system for special pickup instructions and is asking people who wish to have backyard pickup services provided to call the company to update their information, she said.

The new system is expected to greatly reduce the amount of garbage customers send to the landfill.

Ms. Simi said the company is estimating a 25 percent to 35 percent increase in composting and recycling in the service area.

In the first three days of the new service, there was a 78 percent increase of compost and green waste and a 31 percent increase in recycled materials, Ms. Devincenzi said.

"For a rollout of this size ... there are bound to be some problems and glitches," said Malcolm Smith, public communication manager for Redwood City.

He said he has received numerous complaints from residents reporting missed service, but a handful of people have also contacted him to say that the switch went smoothly for them.

"I have a great deal of confidence that they will work out the bugs," Mr. Smith said.

Despite the complaints, Ms. Simi said that 97 percent of customers experienced no problems with the new service. She also noted that the week after Christmas is traditionally the heaviest garbage week of the year, and this year the amount of garbage collected was double what was collected last year.

Ms. Devincenzi said she wanted to remind customers that the new pickup times and routes are different from what people have been used to. Officials are asking customers to wait until 6 p.m. before reporting a missed pickup.

In another change from the previous collector, Recology trucks will go down one side of a street picking up trash with their mechanical arms and then return at a later time to pick up trash on the other side of the street.

For safety reasons, the new routes require the trucks to make mainly right turns.

The new three-cart system, known as CartSMART, also means that three different trucks will collect the contents from the three types of bins at different times, Devincenzi said.

The new service, however, also means rate increases for most customers.

Comments

Posted by Jonathan, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 11, 2011 at 8:26 pm

The new system is fantastic. We love having the cart for all our recyclables (instead of the bins), and our kids are really into the composting aspect of the yard waste bin. Every time I peel an apple or carrot they remind me to but the peels in the compost bin.


Posted by Fox, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 13, 2011 at 1:40 pm

My understanding is that for some communities, single-stream recycling is a step forward, but for menlo park it is a step back. Menlo Park residents did a good job of sorting. Now more of our trash will be contaminated, less salable and MORE will go to landfill.


Posted by Michael Craig, a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2011 at 6:33 am

Here is my question? To be "P.C" do all the residents of San Mateo County have to suffer with horrible service from a vendor that in April of 2011 is still struggling to even do the basic level of service which is pick up our trash? I guess Recology is more concerned with Recycling as this trash gets picked up first and then DAYS laster the regular Trash gets picked up while residents have to deal with the eyesore of trash barrels sitting out for a week! I live in Belmont and I bet that we are not the only community still wondering why after being awarded a HUGE contract for over 50 Million dollars they have to send trucks out 2-3 times to pick up trash when Allied Waste did not "waste" gas by going out on repeated attempts!
How "Green" are they really when the trash they are supposed to pick up never even makes it to Landfill but sure does end up on our streets as the smaller trash barrels they have given us are top heavy and are prone to tipping over from wind or racoons. I noticed Recycling Trash Barrels got much bigger and regular Trash Barrels got much smaller. Recology does not need more Customer Service Reps-it needs more DRIVERS then it won't need more CSR's because there won't be any more complaints. I am wondering how Recology got this contract in the first place? I know in my community everyone was happy with the one day a week pick up for trash instead of the new 2 day pick up and somehow everyone figured out how to sort recyclables into bins. I now understand we will "penalized" if we don't compost?! Is this for real? Please stop the "P.C." Police from wrecking our lives and bring back a vendor that actually did what they were paid to do-PICK UP TRASH!


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