St. Paul Residents Resist Mandated Garbage Collection

The more St. Paul residents find out about the city’s newly mandated organized garbage collection program, the less they like about it. City Hall not only took away their citizens’ right to choose a hauler, but forced all property owners to sign up for the service, whether they needed it or not.

But there’s a mounting rebellion underway in response to the city’s heavy-handed tactics, according to the Star Tribune.

Last week, opponents delivered petitions with more than 6,000 signatures demanding a public vote they hope will end the garbage service forever. The main objection is the $20 to $34 monthly cost, and no one feels it more than the owners of an estimated 9,300 St. Paul properties that didn’t pay a hauler before.

Some of them create minuscule amounts of waste. Others toted their trash to work, or shared a cart with neighbors, or dumped their garbage illegally. For them, the old “free agent” system allowing them to live off the garbage grid was cheaper and better.

City councils usually start out selling organized collection to their constituents as a way to improve air quality and reduce wear on the streets. But it appears St. Paul city planners were obsessed by their lack of control over how thousands of residents dealt with their trash.

“We really didn’t know where their garbage was going,” Hiebert said. “Yes, there were people sharing and yes, there are zero-wasters. And we heard of situations where family members were taking garbage to their house in another city and another county. But there were also people dumping in our parks, dumping in our alleys and dumping in other people’s carts.”

Crazy as it sounds, St. Paul’s garbage collection takeover appears to have opened the eyes of thousands of the city’s generally liberal residents to the downside of bigger, more intrusive government in their lives.

Sharing a bigger cart used to cost [Sally] Coddon less than $10 a month, she said. Her costs have more than doubled.

“How can they say you don’t have the right to share?” she said. “I know a lot people who just share, or dump it at their work. They might take it over to their mother’s house.”

Keith Kamp has done exactly that. His parents own a small grocery store a couple blocks from Kamp’s North End home. He said he brings a kitchen bag of garbage to their store’s dumpster each week. Then the organized program started and he received a $96 bill from his city-assigned hauler.

“I haven’t paid it yet,” he said, adding that he’s signed the petitions. “I mean it’s not going to kill you, but there are lot of other things you want to spend $96 on.”

The growing discontent will likely lead to a ballot question that could result in significant changes to mandated garbage service in St. Paul down the line. In the meantime, St. Paul residents have less reason to wonder whether someone with nothing better to do is out back in the alley tracking their trash–at least for now.