Energy & Environment
Written by Tom Steward | February 9, 2017

St. Paul Residents Trash New Recycling Program Problems

It hasn’t been a Eureka moment for St. Paul residents dealing with the city’s newly implemented recycling program. Word on the curbside is that the project that’s designed for residents to increase their participation in recycling remains a work in progress. Mounting frustration among homeowners has led to thousands of complaints over pickup delays and logistics pouring into the city and hauler, Eureka Recycling.eureka_recycling_fs6

At least Eureka appears to be relying on a fleet of trucks, instead of the bicycle recycling carts the company tested out a few years back.  And city officials now emphasize the positive by pointing out in the paper that only hundreds of calls have been logged in the last few days.

People called the city’s contractor, Eureka Recycling, with complaints and questions 2,700 times in the first week after the program began Jan. 16. The company missed entire streets, and many people were confused about how to correctly set out their new wheeled carts. But last week the number of calls dropped to about 700 and has continued to decline since then, said Lynn Hoffman, Eureka co-president.

“We’re seeing lots of improvement,” she said. “It was a lot of change at one time for everybody.”

City Council members warned Eureka staff Wednesday, after an update, that problems need to be fixed soon. Council members aired the frustrations they have been hearing from many constituents and asked for another report in a month.

“Fix it. Get it done. We hired you to do a service . … Live up to the contract,” Council Member Chris Tolbert said. He warned that if problems persist after 90 days the city could look at legal options.

The confusion may not portend good things for the city’s expected move to organized trash collection next year. St. Paul residents will no longer have freedom of choice when it comes to choosing their garbage hauler and plan next year. The 14 haulers currently serving city residents will be restricted to separate neighborhoods, starting next year. But first, the city has work to do teaching residents how to use their new apparently not-so-user-friendly recycling service.

St. Paul and Eureka have focused on educating people and problem solving, often on a case-by-case basis. Some people did not get a cart and put out the old bins. Others placed the carts in the wrong spot. Certain alleys were too narrow for the standard truck to navigate and had to be added to a route for smaller trucks.

Residents also got new pickup times and could recycle different items, and Eureka started collecting recyclables from alleys. The city hoped the changes would prompt people to recycle more, and the plan appears to be working.

Tom Steward

Tom Steward is a Government Accountability Reporter at Center of the American Experiment.
[email protected]

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