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Lack of compliance to new blue cart rules may force city to move to costly solutions

Manteca — based on the inspection of one truckload of recyclables collected — is failing miserably when it comes to recycling.

And it’s not just a failure to refrain from placing items such as paper, magazines, food packaging such as what cereal comes in, and glass bottles that once were OK to go into the blue carts. There’s lots of pure garbage such as food waste and even discarded infant car safety seats being tossed into the blue carts.

“Everything that is not supposed to be in there is in there,” Mayor Ben Cantu said Tuesday.

The mayor, as did other council members, stopped by the Lovelace Transfer Station on Thursday to observe workers combing through one truckload of recyclables collected from a Manteca neighborhood that day to inventory. The goal was to determine how well city residents were complying with the new recycling rules that went into effect in December. The answer was doubling disappointing. Not only were the new rules not being followed in terms of what recyclable items could still be placed in the blue cart but there was a significant amount of unadulterated garbage tossed in the blue carts.

Cantu said postings on his Facebook page showed “people are confused, people don’t care.”

Unless the city comes up with another way to reduce contamination in blue carts so that vendors will accept recyclables that currently have value instead of rejecting what the city collects from blue carts, it will force Manteca to increase monthly solid waste charges. That’s because the city is landfilling all of what is collected in blue carts because it is so contaminated with garbage and recently banned recyclable items that currently have no value hence no one will take them. The cost of landfilling what recycling trucks collect at $52 a ton was never factored into the current rates.

Burying truckload after truckload from the blue carts puts the city in violation of state mandates to divert solid waste from landfills triggering significant fines will also cost ratepayers.

It is why Cantu is advocating Manteca consider putting in a sorting operation that requires employing people to shift through the contents  of items collected from blue carts to pick out items that can be recycled. Cantu said the city might be able to “make money” by providing the sorting service to other jurisdictions on a contractual basis.

Cantu also suggested the city might add a fourth cart — one that is yellow — for people confused about what should go into the blue and brown carts. He did not elaborate what exactly would go into the yellow cart.

“Plastic bottles, aluminum cans, cardboard — that’s it,” Councilman Dave Breitenbucher said of what is supposed to go into the blue carts. “Ben hit (the nail on the head). People just don’t care.”
Public Works Director Mark Houghton said staff is currently meeting with other vendors as well as looking at other options for recyclables.

Breitenbucher noted that when he visited Lovelace to observe the sifting through the truckload that was collected from blue carts on Thursday he saw two child safety seats in good condition.

“Those should have gone to Goodwill,” he said.

Regardless of what may replace the current system, it will cost ratepayers more.

When the city launched the new rules in response to changing market conditions for recycling that essentially reflects those buying everything from newspapers, glass, magazines, food packaging, paper, and higher numbered plastics no longer accepting high levels of garbage such as food waste and diapers contaminating those recyclables, it was based on the hope education would bring about compliance.

If they complied with the new rules ratepayers essentially would be avoiding the prospect of rates going up simply based on the city being forced to switch to a more labor intensive and costly post collection sorting operating whether they established one or contracted with the private sector.

City Manager Tim Ogden said the city would be extending its education efforts for a bit longer before resorting to strict enforcement that would see blue carts with items not allowed — either the items no longer allowed to be recycled or garbage — not being picked up. Continued violation would result in blue carts being yanked forcing households to go to larger, more expensive carts.

No paper of any kind, glass bottles, and cartons that have been recycled for years can be placed in recycling carts for the city to pick up. The same goes for items already banned such as food, garbage, plastic bags, Styrofoam, light bulbs and such. 

The new rules leave only four items that can be placed in the blue carts:

*Corrugated cardboard that is clan and flattened.

*Plastic containers (No. 1 and No. 2) such as those used for milk.

*Empty metal containers, primarily food cans.

*CRV redemption bottles and cans.

Those are the only four recyclable items that there are still concerns that will purchase them.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email