Scavengers — primarily the homeless — under existing city rules can’t legally remove recyclable materials from residential blue Toters put at curbside or from city-issued commercial bins.
An overhauled ordinance designed to move forward with new garbage rates that could be adopted at a Dec. 6 public hearing re-enforces that stance.
The study accompanying the rate increases and pending changes to the municipal waste disposal stream that will lead to food waste being converted to compressed natural gas to power the municipal fleet of solid waste collection trucks, however, offers no mechanism for the city to enforce the provision barring the theft of recyclables.
In 2014, the city tested 100 locked blue Toter cans for recyclables in the Mission Ridge neighborhood west of Wal-Mart.
The pilot program was driven by a surge in complaints from residents who said the homeless scavenging through their Toters were littering streets with debris. Such complaints had shot up about 90 percent in the previous year at about the same time the number of homeless people in Manteca increased.
The homeless go through Toters in a search for money in the form of containers for commodities such as soft drinks, energy drinks, water, and juices that have California redemption value of a nickel apiece. In several cases, homeowners confronted homeless that entered their yards to rifle through the Toters.
The lockable Toters work when residents remember to lock them before placing them at curbside. They do not need to be unlocked, however, for city crews to dump them in refuse trucks.
The system works on gravity. When the Toter is lifted up and is turned around 180 degrees, the lid opens and the recyclables fallout.
It is extremely hard for one person to do when a Toter is loaded. They can turn it sideways and such but can’t get the lid to open.
The test was a success. After it was over city staff indicated there were no plans at that time to start buying locked Toters for newer recyclable service or to slowly replace existing blue Toters with lockable Toters.
There is no reference in the current rate study.
Municipal staff noted most homeless and/or scavengers once they are told not to leave contents of Toters on the ground once they have plucked out valuable recyclables have complied therefore sustainably reducing homeowner complaints.
While replacing the existing blue Toters with lockable Toters can be costly, it could be offset by increased revenue from the city having more aluminum cans and bottles with California redemption value to recycle.,
Back in 2014 it was noted the lockable Toters eliminated the pilfering of redeemable recyclables. A proposal was made that existing Toters would be either sold to other agencies or ground up and recycled. It was determined they could phase in the Toters gradually without impacting monthly garbage rates with the cost of adding the replacement Toters. The rate study makes no reference to lockable containers or potential increased revenue if the city opted to replace existing Toters and ultimately to divert the increased recycling revenue to help offset solid waste operating costs.
If a Manteca household tossed out 20 redeemable containers a week — the equivalent of three six packs of soda and two juice bottles — it represents $1 in redeemable value. Multiply that by Manteca’s households and it represents $24,000 a week of potential money for the homeless or $1,248,000 a year.
The lockable Toters would have the dual purpose of allowing the city to passively enforce its own law against the stealing of recyclables.
In the early morning hours before the solid waste trucks roll, it’s common to see a number of people bicycling through town carrying large bags filled with recyclables.
While some scavenge recyclables from roadsides and garbage cans at service stations, the vast majority of recyclables are illegally taken from the city.
Homeless advocates have chastised taking away such “revenue” from homeless as unfair and inhumane.
Proposed rate increases
The monthly rate structure being considered by the City Council on Dec. 6s would be phased over five years starting in 2017 until fully implemented in 2021.
It would take the 35-gallon Toter from $19.78 to $30.67 for a $10.85 per month increase.
It would take the 65-gallon Toter from $25.49 to $32.61 for a $7.12 per month increase
It would take the 95-gallon Toter from $30.02 to $34.33 for a $4.11 per month increase.
It would take senior low-income Toter service from $12.72 to $19.72 for a $7 per month increase.
It would take 1-yard commercial bins picked up once a week from $67.57 to $119.80.
It would take 2-yard commercial bins picked up once a week from $97.44 to $132.71.
It would take 3 yard commercial bins picked up once a week from $120.05 to $145.62
It would take 3 yard commercial bins picked up three times a week from $317.96 to $436.85.
It would take 4-yard commercial bins picked up once a week from $146.72 to $158.53.
It would take 4-yard commercial bins picked up three times a week from $388.31 to $475.58.
It would take 6-yard commercial bins picked up once a week from $196.06 down to $184.34.
It would take 6-yard commercial bins picked up three times a week from $529.42 to $553.03.
The rate alternative selected would give the city a 21 percent operating reserve for the solid waste enterprise fund by 2021. It has fallen below the current 25 percent and is projected to 19 percent or $2,138,804 by 2021 if new rates aren’t put in place.
Impacted ratepayers would be notified Jan. 18, 2017 with new rates going into effect Feb. 6, 2017. The first payments of the new rates takes place April 15, 2017.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org