New hires, protocols for Fitchburg trash pickup

Waste Management officials told city councilors that recent staffing changes and newly implemented protocols will improve curbside pickup service.

"We're working to get better. Again, to be frank, I kind of took on a large mess when I took over in this waste management facility, but again I think we're making headway," Waste Management's Manager of Collections Operations Matt Hill told councilors Thursday.

...the company has "turned over" its staff of drivers on the Fitchburg route. Employees were forced to resign, he said, and Waste Management is in the process of hiring replacements.

A new fleet of trucks is expected to hit city streets, and this winter they will have snow tires to ensure the vehicles don't get stuck in hilly neighborhoods, said Hill.

The volume of yard waste collected this fall is 25 percent greater than last year, according to Hill. He said yard waste pickups have been delayed recently because the collection truck reaches capacity before finishing its route.

Health Director Stephen Curry encouraged residents to report missed pickups using the ReCollect app or the website SeeClickFix, which forwards the complaint to Waste Management.

Ed Pacek, with Waste Management Public Sector Solutions Division, updated councilors on progress made to cut down on rates of contaminated recycling in the city.

He said a "recycling crisis" was precipitated by China's decision to effectively stop accepting recyclables from oversees, boosting the cost of recycling disposal domestically.

An initial audit of 11 truckloads of recyclables tossed by Fitchburg residents found 44 percent of the waste was contaminants, said Pacek. An acceptable rate of contamination is between 5 to 10 percent, he said.

Plastic bags and plastic shrink wrap are the most common contaminate found in the city's recycling, said Pacek. The bags jam equipment used to sort recycling, and should instead be thrown in the trash or dropped off at a supermarket that collects them.
"On our end that's probably the single most important point," he said.

Other items that are not recyclable are hoses, electrical cords, pill bottles, cartons with aseptic lining and "organic matter."

Waste Management won't collect visibly contaminated recycling. Curry said residents risk a ticket it they overfill their recycling bins to the point where the lid will not shut, a violation of city ordinance.

"Barrels that have the potential, in the dumping process, to spill all over the ground, (barrels) that are so overflowing, are rejected," he said.