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Garbage truck cameras key to complying to recycling rules
cart overflow
This photo taken by a reader shows a recycling cart filled beyond the lid that a solid waste truck driver isn’t supposed to collect under city rules but did so anyway.

Manteca’s solid waste workers aren’t doing their job.

It’s a statement made by a Manteca resident who has observed refuse collection trucks and the drivers and snapped photos of them at work.

The photos show:

*Blue recycling carts overloaded with lids sticking straight up in violation of city policy that were still dumped

*Recycling carts filled with Styrofoam— not recyclable — being dumped.

*Three recycling carts within 100 yards that were overloaded but still tipped by the driver.

*A recycling cart tipped that contained a non-recyclable laundry basket.

The resident noted “we’re going to pay for cameras, but for what — here’s three examples 100 yards apart from each other and the drivers don’t do their job.”

Penni Basalusalu, who oversees the city’s soldi waste division, doesn’t necessarily disagree with that assessment regarding workers aren’t doing their job.

The problem is violations that undermine the collection of recyclables are so prolific — and time consuming to address – that it would require significantly more costly manpower to enforce.

And, as Basalusalu can attest to, based on previous efforts that allowed the city to make barely a dent in the problem, “you could put boots on the ground” in one area of the city and it would continue unabated elsewhere.

In short, the more manpower approach required for enforcement is extremely cost prohibitive and ineffective.

The camera system the city plans to install that is a small fraction of the pending rate increases will allow the city to attack problems universally in a timely manner at minimal cost.

Currently, the city is able to pursue a dozen or so tickets each month.

It is a time consuming process that requires the driver to get out of the truck and tag the cart. It is then followed up with the issuance of a ticket.

Often times the homeowner disputes the claim of the driver. There is a back and forth that takes place that can consume up to two to three hours.

The camera system allows a photo to be taken that is time and location stamped that is then emailed directly to the  homeowner with an explanation why their cart wasn’t tipped. It takes less than 10 minutes.

“It is a way to hold customers as well as drivers accountable,” Basalusalu said

He became aware of the effectives of the system when he called the company that collects solid waste where he resides in Stockton to report his cans weren’t collected.

Unbeknownst to Basalusalu, his son who was tasked with doing so failed to place the carts out in time.

The office worker, after getting his address, was able to email Basalusalu with photographic proof that the cart wasn’t curbside as required when the solid waste collection truck stopped at his home.

“It was resolved in 10 minutes,” said Basalusalu who then requested a pickup to dispose of the cart’s contents that he had to pay for.

Manteca is now caught in a “he said, she said” situation between drivers and households that report their carts not being collected although they indicated they were placed out in time.

Manteca  now returns to pick up the cart assuming the customer is right at no charge. That results in additional costs and time for the city that is absorbed by all households.

The cameras will also help the city address another issue — carts left too close to vehicles.

Basalusalu said it happens in neighborhoods where a lot of vehicles are parked on the street.

As a result, carts are placed either farther into the streets or too close to vehicles for operators to use the claws to tip them. Drivers have to get out of trucks to move the carts. That often requires repositioning  the truck.

It is a time consuming endeavor that shouldn’t happen if rules requiring spacing between vehicles and carts are followed.

The cameras can be used to send proof of the problem to get customers to rectify it or else face charges for a repeat trip to dump carts.

The cameras — coupled with everyone going  to universal 96-gallon carts for recyclables, garbage and yard waste/organic waste and all three carts being picked up weekly — will at a minimum double the volume that people can recycle.

The idea is to provide adequate room for garbage and recyclables to avoid contamination issues. Currently, the city is experiencing a 70 percent contamination rate that renders recyclables it collects to be recycled unfit to do so. Instead, they have to be buried which means paying expensive fees per ton.

The contamination rate needs to be below 20 percent.

Customers unable to get by with just one 96-gallon cart for either yard waste/organic waste or recyclables will have the option of paying a one-time fee to have a second cart that will be collected at no additional charge.

The city, after it approves rate increases, is expected to start switching to the weekly collection system later this year.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email