Rexie LeStrange has spent the last 21 years dealing with garbage.
And she’s happy doing it.
“The people that work here are great,” LeStrange said of her 32 fellow workers in the City of Manteca’s Solid Waste Division.
LeStrange oversees Manteca’s garbage, recycling, and green waste collection as the superintendent of solid waste. It’s a position she’s held since January when she took over for Carlos Ramos upon his retirement.
The promotion was a consolidation of her previous job as the city’s recycling coordinator. That - along with the creation of three lead collection workers - is part of a move to reduce costs and encourage even more efficient work flow in a bid to keep costs down and to extend a string of nearly a decade without any garbage rate increases.
One of the first steps she took as the new solid waste superintendent was to get tough with those who routinely break the rules and stuff garbage in blue recycling Toters and green yard waste Toters. She had crews seize the blue and green Toters.
“We had customers who were trying to save money by giving up the larger Toters and going to the 32 gallon Toters,” LeStrange said. “What they do then is stuff their garage in the recycling and green waste.”
And that ends costing the city - and ultimately other residents - more money. That’s because if a load of recyclables sent to a company in Fremont is contaminated with garbage, it is buried instead costing the city twice the amount as it would to have simply buried the recyclables. They can’t bury recyclables with garbage as a regular practice due to state mandates requiring cities to divert 50 percent of their trash from landfills. Contamination of green waste also results in truckloads being buried instead of being turned into compost.
LeStrange said violators are typically warned up to five times before their green and blue Toters are seized.
“We had people call us up and tell us their Toters were stolen and we tell them that isn’t the case and that we picked them up because they were repeat offenders that ignored warnings given them,” LeStrange said.
None of the violators have had their recycling or green waste privileges re-instated. The result is they have been forced to go to the biggest and more expensive garbage Toters.
The next big thing in terms of reducing garbage costs is to find a way to use the bio solid byproducts from the wastewater treatment plant to help make compost.
The treatment plant crews dry the 300 to 500 generated a month put as much as possible to reduce the weight since the city is charged by the ton at the landfill.
Staff is currently exploring various options including ultimately creating their own composting operation to utilize not just the bio solids from the treatment plant but green waste as well. The city then would have fertilizer it could use at its 52 parks plus possibly sell wholesale.
Manteca is also in the process of replacing their 32 garbage trucks as they reach the end of their useful life spans with hybrid trucks. They reduce not just fuel consumption and air pollution, but they also save money on brakes.
Due to the frequent stops - 900 on a typical residential route - and the weight the trucks carry means traditional braking systems need brake replacement an average of three times a year. The cost can run as high as $2,000. The hybrid trucks extend brake life enough that they can go three times as long before replacements are needed.
LeStrange noted that the biggest efficiencies have been gained by collection truck drivers who not only have continued to increase the number of homes they serve on a typical shift over the years, but also pick up the slack when they are short-handed due to illness or vacation.
The city doesn’t have floaters per se to fill in and instead must juggle existing personnel.