• Manteca has not had a garbage rate increase in 11.5 years, the longest of any jurisdiction in the 209.
• Forty percent of the garbage Manteca residents toss into brown Toters is food waste as opposed to the state average of 20 percent.
• A large number of residents don’t bag and tie their food waste but instead just toss it into the brown Toter creating what auditors call “an unprecedented” among of maggots that eventually turn into flies
• Manteca is among the few remaining California cities that collect its own garbage instead of contracting the service out to the private sector.
You can tell a lot about a city by its garbage.
Manteca, for example, tosses out more food than a typical California city.
Residents tend not to bag that food.
They also rarely recycle tin cans — either because they don’t know they can or they eat a lot of frozen, fast and fresh food.
And Mantecans are also environmentally savvy in that they know not to toss spent batteries into the trash.
Those are the findings of a contracted garbage auditing firm that Manteca hired to pull garbage, recycling and green waste Toters randomly off the streets and shift through their contents. The firm does the same task for hundreds of other California jurisdictions that are all under the same state mandate as Manteca — by 2020 only 25 percent of all garbage a city collects can be buried at a landfill. Ultimately, Manteca must bury no more than 10 percent of its garbage.
“The auditors were quite surprised by the amount of fast food (leftovers) they found,” noted Rexie LeStrange who oversees Manteca’s solid waste division.
They found that food waste constituted 40 percent of the contents of the brown Toters, instead of the statewide 20 percent average based on weight. The audit showed an inordinate amount was fast food.
At the same time Manteca was the first city they came across that had an epidemic of maggots in Toters.
LeStrange said that’s because a large number of residents simply toss food waste into garbage Toters instead of bagging it and tying it. As a result, flies lay eggs. The maggots, of course, eventually turn into flies.
“It (the maggot problem) is so bad that we will not switch out Toters for people who have problems with them,” LeStrange said.
Instead they are advised to clean the Toters and to dispose of food in a manner not to attract flies.
Also pet waste needs to be bagged and not just tossed in the garbage for the same reason — maggots.
Auditors also found very few tin cans in recycling Toters. And rarely did they see spent batteries.
The lack of batteries did not surprise LeStrange. She said residents routinely drop large collections of used batteries off at the solid waste office on Wetmore Street for recycling.
As for cleaning out cans and jars that contained food such as canned raviolis and jars of mayonnaise, LeStrange said “that is old school.”
The firm they now send the recyclables to uses recycled water to clean jars and cans after separating them.
LeStrange said there is no need to use water — which is now a scarce commodity due to the drought — to rinse them out. If residents can simply shake out any excess food that might be left, that what do just fine.
She also noted diapers are not recyclable and should not go into the blue or green toters. If they are found in a truckload of recyclables from residential collections, the entire load has to be landfilled.
At the same time pizza boxes — as long as they are not saturated with grease — can be recycled, Styrofoam of any type is not recyclable in Manteca and needs to go in the brown Toter. While it can be recycled, there is no market for it.
Why you should care about any of this is simple. The less stuff that goes into a brown Toter and the non-contamination of blue recyclables and green yard waste means you are helping keep your garbage rates down.
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No rate increase for 11.5 years
Manteca has not increased residential or commercial garbage rates in 11.5 years. That’s a record for San Joaquin and Stanislaus cities.
The city’s rates for 64 and 96 gallon residential and commercial collection are the lowest in San Joaquin County. Only one city is lower than Manteca on the rate for the 32-gallon Toter.
The reason for that is simple: Manteca continually strives to be as efficient as possible and is always looking for ways to reduce costs.
That is the driving force behind current plans to develop a facility at the wastewater treatment plant that would turn wet commercial garbage — food waste — into compressed gas to fuel cleaner burning garbage trucks or to generate electricity.
Fifteen years ago, a driver could collect from 450 homes during his shift. Now they average more than 900 homes per shift. A lot of that has to do with the switch to hydraulic arms that are more efficient and reduce the need to climb out of trucks to do old school dumping or to reposition Toters so they can be picked up.
The city runs 12 residential garbage truck routes five days a week and six commercial trucks. Those residential routes also include recycling and green waste trucks.
Altogether, the city has a fleet of 28 trucks serving 23,000 households and 1,000 commercial accounts.
And it is the most expensive collection of vehicles in the city with an average replacement value of $350,000.
This is where the unsung heroes of the city’s vehicle maintenance comes into play. Garbage trucks that put on 50 hard miles a day of stop and go driving with the hydraulic systems getting an extensive workout, have a life expectancy of seven to 10 years. Manteca squeezes 15 years of service on average out of the trucks before the truck maintenance has diminishing returns financially.
The crews use several 100 gallons or so of water a day to clean off food and liquid spills on the outside of trucks that are an unavoidable byproduct of tipping Toters and trash bins. If not, within several days they start attracting flies plus put off an odor that is definitely detectable as it goes down the street.
The insides of garbage trucks are cleaned only when maintenance has to be done inside of them. That typically involves welding. Leftover garage can ignite plus the odors would be detrimental to vehicle maintenance crews.
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Where your garbage goes
Also helping Manteca keep costs down is its location. Unlike many cities, Manteca doesn’t have to drive fully loaded garbage trucks very far once they are at capacity or at the end of a shift.
Tipping green waste, recyclables, and garbage can all be done within 10 miles of Manteca.
Yard waste goes to Harvest Power in Lathrop where it is converted to mulch and ends up at garden centers and home improvement centers for use in gardens or for agricultural operations.
Recyclables go to the Austin Road landfill where there is a warehouse transfer station where they are prepared for trucking to a recycling facility in Milpitas that separates them, and then ships them off to be reused.
Allied Waste’s landfill on Austin Road north of Manteca is where city garbage is taken that needs to be buried.
At $44 a ton, it is an expensive proposition given Manteca generates 36,000 tons of garbage in a typical year in addition to 7,200 tons of recyclables and 12,000 tons of green waste.
A little over a decade ago, it cost $19 a ton to landfill garbage.
“Everything has gone up in the past 11 years,” LeStrange said. “Tipping fees (to bury garbage), fuel costs, trucks, and wages have gone up. The only thing that hasn’t gone up is garbage rates.”
And that is the direct results of the city’s commitment to find ways to cut costs and to rethink how things are done when it comes to solid waste.
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Few if any cities offer all of what Manteca does for its residents
LeStrange noted that the city has kept rates unchanged despite offering a variety of services at no charge that no other city in the region does.
Those services include:
• free annual use of a 2-yard city trash bin for excess trash.
• three tags a year that allow you to place an extra 32-gallon tied garbage bag next to your Brown Toter for free pickup. Many residents use them around the holidays or when they have large parties.
• free shredding at least once a year of documents to deter identity theft.
• free recycling of electronic waste.
• free collection of medical sharps.
• free Christmas tree pickup along with leaf collection.
LeStrange encourages residents to drop by the solid waste division’s booth at next weekend’s downtown Pumpkin Fair.
Among the items available are free recycled shopping tote bags that will come in handy when grocery stores and merchandisers such as Target, Walmart, and Kmart will have to start charging for the use of recycle paper bags when California’s plastic bag ban takes effect.