Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Model Policies for Cleaner Streets

This post is a companion to the previous post, which showed 20 violations of Princeton's yardwaste policy along three blocks--not an especially unusual number in my neighborhood. If anything, the situation with ongoing violations and perpetually dirty streets has worsened over the years.

Princeton allows you to dump loose leaves and brush on the street, but supposedly no more than one week before scheduled pickup. Princetonians ignore the second part of that sentence, partly because the schedule is very complicated, and partly because the rules are not enforced.

This is an extremely convenient service for homeowners and landscape companies, who can and do dump leaves and brush on the street any day of the year, but the resulting mess, street hazard, and the high cost in man-hours, equipment and fuel for collection and composting are a considerable price to pay.

Princeton also picks up bags of yardwaste, on a different schedule. Here are some that were getting blown around in recent winds.

A popular alternative in other towns is to not allow any loose dumping of leaves in the streets. People either grind the leaves up with their lawn mowers, compost them in piles in the backyard, or put them out for pickup using a 96 gallon rollout bin augmented with yardwaste bags as needed. The rollout bin is easier to fill and maneuver around the yard than yardwaste bags, and pickup days are on a specific day every week. No complicated schedules.

I researched the cost of the hydraulic hook that needs to be fitted on the truck to lift and empty the rollout bin. It costs $5000 to retrofit a truck with a hook, and the mechanical lift reduces the sort of heavy lifting that can injure workers.

This resident in Durham, NC, really didn't want to compost leaves in the backyard for some reason, so went to the trouble of bagging them all up. Only ten bags will be taken each week. For most people during most weeks of the year, the rollout bins are enough.

The rollout bins have an added advantage of being useful not only for leaves/yardwaste but also for kitchen scraps. Ann Arbor, MI, long in the forefront of recycling (I helped with a pilot program back in the late 1970's there) has an excellent website that combines policy with education, and details the kind of program that could work very well in Princeton. They offer residents very reasonably priced rollout bins in various sizes.

Whereas Princeton's foodwaste pickup requires trucking the scraps 70 miles south to Wilmington for composting, Ann Arbor composts a combination of yardwaste and food scraps just outside of town, at a location no more remote than the Lawrenceville Ecological Center where Princeton's yardwaste is taken.

In these programs, there are various ways for residents to pay for the optional service of yardwaste pickup. Here's some language from Durham, NC's program. Residents pay a small charge, while residents who opt out pay nothing. 
"Yard waste collection is an optional fee-based program. For a $60 fee, residents are enrolled into the yard waste program from July 1 to June 30. The service fee does not include the cart rental fee. If a cart is at your residence and you apply for service you will be charged an $18 leasing fee." 
Currently in Princeton, everyone has to pay the $1million+ pricetag for leaf and brush pickup whether we make use of it or not.

For brush pickup, bundling is a common requirement, and Ann Arbor organizes neighborhoods to assist elderly neighbors with their yard cleanup.

The result is a good service, municipal savings, and clean streets.

1 comment:

SFB said...

Agree that it's a mess that huge piles of debris are dumped in the street for weeks on end. Also agree that the 'rules' about what is supposed to be left at the curb are widely ignored. But how big a problem is that?

I would support an end to municipal yard waste pickup, because it subsidizes and incentivizes a costly practice that is less sustainable than backyard composting. I'm ambivalent about 'rollout bins'.