Thursday, April 2, 2009

A welcome increase in City sanitation services

By Cheryl Casciani
Chair, Baltimore Commission on Sustainability and
Director of Community Investment, Baltimore Community Foundation

I have been a resident of Baltimore City for 15 years and in that entire time I cannot recall an occasion where my city services have been increased…until the announcement of the proposed
1 + 1 trash and recycling collection program. This program, which requires passage of legislation being considered before the City Council, will entitle Baltimore residents to their accustomed twice per week visit from City sanitation trucks. It is true that one visit will be for trash and the second will be for recycling, but when you examine what the full program means for residents, neighborhoods and the City as a whole, one can quickly see the enhanced benefits.

First, all City trash routes are being updated to assure that all streets in a given neighborhood have the same trash collection day. This is the first route update in over 30 years, and all routes will now include vacant lots and alleys. And, the worker schedules will change so that we will eliminate the problem of no holiday collections. The biggest change, however, is that residents will now have weekly pick-up for an unlimited amount of recyclable material.

In 2008 the City introduced a single-stream recycling program, and as a result Baltimore’s recycling tonnage increased by 30% in one year’s time. The program was expanded in early 2009 so that most of what residents now throw into their trash can be recycled. To see an updated list of what is recyclable, visit Why should we care about this? The City saves approximately $33 for every ton of trash that it doesn’t send to the landfills and refuse facility, and the City gets additional revenue from recyclables. Last year alone Baltimore realized close to $400,000 in recycling revenue. This is clearly good for the City as a whole.

Individual households will see an increase in the amount of material that the city will collect because there are no limits on the amount of recycling that can be placed out for pick-up. These changes will make the entire collection system more efficient and free up collection crews for alley clean-up and seasonal cleaning and collection operations. The new program also includes the proposed addition of 20 additional sanitation code inspectors who will address code violations and persistent neighborhood sanitation problems.

It is true that this program will only work if residents recycle, which is why all of us – residents and businesses who already recycle, community organizations like the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council (RHIC), youth leadership organizations like Kids on the Hill, foundations like the Baltimore Community Foundation, and City officials – should do everything to get our neighbors and businesses to recycle. I encourage people to take advantage of the community forums now taking place throughout the City so they may learn more about the program. You can see the updated schedule on the Cleaner, Greener Baltimore website. Neighborhood organizations throughout the City are also good sources of information about the recycling program.

Change is always hard. But, people will marvel at how easy it is to make this change. Residents will also be able to take pride in their role in saving the City money and making our streets cleaner and greener.


Joel said...

The vision vs the reality.
You see household separating their trash into two piles, enjoying the fact that trash is picked up every week regardless of holidays.

The reality is that with 90 day to go, I am probably the only house on my block that recycles and you expect people who could not understand the analog TV was going to go away, to care whether their trash sits in the alley for two weeks waiting to be picked up.

This will just turn into a cash cow for the city to collect on citations for residents being ticketed because trash has blown up against their fence. Sanitation Officers usually tickets the innocent hoping that the message will somehow miraculous reach the slob.

Katie said...

I think that an increase in recycling pick up will not only increase awareness about recycling, but make it easier for those who want to recycle but don't have the room. I have two garbage cans for recycling and only one for garbage, and I produce about twice as much recycling as garbage. If I miss even one recycling pick up, I have to drive to the dump. Many times when I put it out, people on the street yell at me thinking that I'm putting out garbage, because they don't know the recycling schedule. I'm all for it!

Frank said...

I like the idea a lot but the caveat in such a program is that its success hinges on the ability of the city (and community) to get everyone to follow suit. While the city will save money on making pick up more efficient, they'll have to spend money to make the program work.

Perhaps the city needs to bolster their sanitation enforcement program and develop programs to educate people about the benefits of recycling and proper sanitation practices. The last time I checked, the city had very limited resources to monitor illegal dumping. It would also serve us to have comprehensive and well-funded educational programs in schools, starting as early as Pre-K kids.

There's a much deeper systemic issue as to why many citizens don't care about clean and green issues. On an average day, kids pass through trashed neighborhoods, seeing vacant homes and drug dealers, only to arrive at an underfunded school, with leaky roofs, busted doors/windows, and a few outdated books in their library. This has been their reality for decades. It's not hard to connect the dots.

I'll support the city's efforts to clean & green but I'd like to see a MUCH bigger commitment to educating our kids.

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