It reduces identity theft.
It keeps Manteca’s streets clean.
It eliminates a Manteca homeless issue.
It protects at least $2.3 million a year in valuables.
It increases city worker efficiency.
Now the question is whether Manteca city leaders will adopt a multi-year plan to make our streets safer and cleaner.
All it takes is adopting a program to replace Manteca’s existing municipal residential Toters for recyclables and garbage with those that lock.
A pilot program that involved rotating 100 lockable Toters around various neighborhoods was a success.
It reduced homeless scavengers and others from rifling through the blue Toters in search of redeemable recyclables, almost always leaving debris across sidewalks, yards and streets as they go from one Toter to another under cloak of darkness on collection days.
At the same time, it prevented some of the same people from stuffing garbage bags with everything from credit card offers to bills to magazines with personal information such as names and addresses and selling them to ID theft criminals at $25 a bag.
And homeowners who had the lockable Toters didn’t have to clean up messes in their front yards.
Manteca’s Solid Waste Division started the pilot program last year. It was the result of a large upshot in residential complaints that city refuse truck crews were allegedly spilling the contents of Toters. The division quickly determined homeless and others scavenging for recyclables — especially California redemption containers worth a nickel apiece such as soda cans, water bottles, and juice bottles — were the culprits.
In talking with residents, they discovered the hunt for redeemable recyclables that easily averaged $100 during the course of a year for every Manteca household was so intense that the homeless were entering backyards to steal from blue Toters before they were even put at curbside.
The most impacted neighborhoods were in and around Mission Ridge Drive.
In just one week, the 100 test homes reported no dumped Toters. Frustrated, the homeless and others moved to other neighborhoods.
The new Toters design requires it to be locked before being placed at curbside. When tipped 180 degrees, it unlocks allowing the contents to drop into municipal refuse trucks.
Everyone with the lockable Toters remembers to lock them, which was a key part of the test.
Folks were so happy with the results that many called to ask for one permanently. Solid Waste, once they were through with testing, compiled with the requests. There are only a few of the 100 lockable Toters still left unclaimed. And that’s without the city saying that people could request permanent use once the pilot program was competed. It’s safe to say people liked the results.
Moving forward, new Toter purchases the city makes for garbage and recyclables to serve new homes will obviously be lockable, but what about the existing 23,000 residential customers?
That will require a decision by City Manager Karen McLaughlin and the Manteca City Council.
Once Toters are replaced, the old ones can be recycled.
There is obviously a cost factor.
Plus there are 46,000 Toters that would need replacing since each home has one for garbage and one for recyclables.
The biggest problem is the blue Toters, although there is a sizable amount of rummaging through brown Toters looking for stray recyclables personal information as well as leftover food.
Replacing the 23,000 blue Toters eventually would make sense.
If the city can do a 1,000 or so a year it would definitely be appreciated. Just ask anyone who has had to deal with cleaning up spilled Toter contents week after week. The City Council needs to make it a priority in the budget process assuming there are adequate funds in the Solid Waste enterprise account to make a transition to lockable Toters.
It isn’t surprising that Toter issues shot up 90 percent about a year ago. That’s when the number of homeless made a big jump as well.
You’ve seen them week in and week out. The homeless on bicycles and on foot carrying huge bags filled with recyclables. If you think they are collecting them from roadsides you are sadly mistaken. You see some of them in the daytime rummaging through trash cans in commercial areas such as service stations and parks looking for redeemable containers. But once the city goes to sleep, they are pedaling around Manteca following the collection routes to fill their bags.
Given that conservative estimates put the value of containers that Manteca residents go through that have a nickel redemption at $2.3 million a year, that’s a lot of attractive revenue to lure homeless and others. Not too many months ago the Bulletin carried a short story and a photo on a man who lives in Lathrop but bicycles into Manteca every night to fill up his bags.
It is clear that if Manteca’s leaders want to make the city less of a magnet for homeless, moving to lockable Toters is one way to do that.