EAST PEORIA — Summer is coming.
And shortly after it officially arrives, East Peoria residents interested in recycling will need to ditch the red 18-gallon bin they've been using for years and discard their recyclables in a city-approved, hinge-lidded, two-wheeled, toter-style waste container that can be purchased from the city for $60. Although it expands the program by collecting glass for the first time, not everyone supports the change.
"I've taken a lot of calls (of complaint)," Mayor Dave Mingus said at a recent city council meeting.
Complaints are two-fold:
Some residents don't like the additional expense. Others find the large 96-gallon recycling carts — the only size the city sells and the only size that is completely compatible with the collection process — are too big, too heavy and too unwieldy to easily maneuver to the curb. A potential solution — smaller, cheaper containers — is apparently not a viable solution at all. Every time the hydraulic arm grips a smaller 35- or 65-gallon container, the container itself is in jeopardy of getting tossed into the garbage truck along with the Busch Light bottles, Healthy Choice frozen food packaging, plastic milk jugs and last month's Journal Star newspapers.
Protocol and policy don't allow drivers to go in after lost containers.
"(The mechanical arm) doesn't get as good a grip on the smaller containers," Public Works Director Dennis Barron said recently. "And the next time a city employee climbs into the truck to retrieve a lost toter will be the last time. It's just not safe."
Beginning July 1, the city will accept for recycling only material that is left at the curb in a receptacle specified for recyclables that can be picked up by the three garbage trucks the city operates. No customer will be required to recycle separately, but for those who choose to separate their trash, a separate container will be required. The city has sold thousands of the blue-lidded containers and has hundreds more available for sale at the public works facility on East Washington Street.
The city will assemble and deliver them for free.
Commissioner Dan Decker, who oversees the city's garbage collection service, believes that any glitches in the system will get worked out at the street level.
"Our employees are fantastic," Decker said. "Obviously we have residents and customers who are blind, who have other disabilities, are in wheelchairs or are older and don't have the physical ability to move the containers to the curb and back. If they want to recycle, we will figure it out at the street level if we have to."
The city will run one recycling truck that will follow ahead or behind the garbage truck on the same route. It is separated into "A" routes and "B" routes, with individual recycling containers being picked up every other week on the same day as regular garbage pick-up. There is no additional fee for garbage collection in East Peoria. The cost is of the service is borne by property taxes by property owners, like other city services such as fire and police protection.
Cole Smith has been collecting garbage for East Peoria for 12 years. He hasn't heard a lot of complaining from residents about the switch in the recycling program, although he admits that he interacts less frequently with residents since the city bought trucks that pick up garbage robotically.
"Picking up the cans and bins would defeat the purpose of having trucks that you don't have to get out of," Smith said between stops recently. "This is a lot quicker, safer and more efficient way to get through the route every day."
Smith has a little advice for his customers, especially those who are adapting to a second 96-gallon container.
"Set the cans at least five feet apart," Smith said. "The arms spread out at least that far apart and will knock over cans that are too close together."
Also, he said, make sure to set the cans with with the wheels facing the house and down on the street, not up on the curb. Even the slight elevation of cans placed in the grass above the curb can result in a broken receptacle. Broken recycling containers are the responsibility of the owner.
Barron said he expects some bumps in the road when the program rolls out on July 1.
"I think people will find that the little ones are too small and will want the bigger toter anyway," he said. "Neighbors working together and helping each other out will be happening, and even people who think the big toters are hard to handle will find that the bigger, heavier toter is not that heavy and actually gives more stability rolling it down the driveway than the smaller lighter ones."
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.