We want our city services to run productively and cost effectively. Recycling, garbage and yard waste are one area where we can all help the Wauwatosa Department of Public Works make that happen.
“There is only so much room for a landfill. It is a state law, you have to recycle. It is not voluntary, it is mandatory.”
“The more you recycle, the more the city saves,” Driver Scott Jeske said. “The more garbage we have to haul away the less money the taxpayers save.”
The City collects about 10,000 tons of garbage and about 5,000 tons of recycling each day. They would like to get that ratio to around 50/50 to maximize savings and reduce costs. You can help by making the right choices when throwing away what you no longer want. Not only is the right thing to do, it is the law.
“The City gets money for recyclables, we pay for garbage,” Operations Superintendent Kevin Hurst said. “There is only so much room for a landfill. It is a state law, you have to recycle. It is not voluntary, it is mandatory.”
The payback rates Wauwatosa receives for recyclables fluctuate based on various economic conditions. But, over the long term, the savings from increasing the amount of recyclable goods is certainly in the City’s favor.
The City of Wauwatosa is developing programs to increase public awareness about the options residents have to assist the DPW in achieving its goals. They have embarked on this process by creating a committee that focuses on how they can enable residents to decrease the amount of garbage that ends up filling up our landfills.
But the best place to start this education has already begun with our children. The schools are teaching kids the importance of recycling and they are listening. After all, it is their future that is impacted by how we approach all of this.
With a modest amount of effort, it can be eye-opening to see how little garbage we each can produce. If you are unsure if an item goes in the recycling or the garbage, the City of Wauwatosa’s website lists the items that you should not place in the garbage.
Paper, plastic, cardboard, aluminum should all be cleaned and tossed in the proper container and the cart with the yellow lid. If you are unsure, put it in the recycling bin and it will be sorted out later. Typically only about seven to 12 percent of what residents put in the recycling bin should go in the garbage.
“It’s better to put it in the recycling bin even if it’s dirty,” Hurst said. “Because it is at least going in the stream and you can let them decide what to take out. If you put it in the garbage it is 100% going to the landfill.”
If you are a household that could produce more recyclable goods then can fit in the cart you do have options. One is you can bring your excess in to the DPW and drop it in the proper place for a modest $5. Two you can add it slowly to your recycling bin over a few weeks and the third is you can request a second cart. The city asks that you only utilize the third option if you are going to fill them on a regular basis because they do have a limited number of extras.
“If you put some effort into it is amazing how little garbage there actually is,” Public Works Business Manager Marion Sodnik said.
In addition to your household garbage you can also help the City’s bottom line with the disposal of your yard waste. The city places the yard waste that they collect in a compost pile at the DPW. The piles of leaves, twigs and brush develops into fertilizer that is sold at area garden center outlets and adds to the money saved by taxpayers.
One banned item residents should never place in the yard waste is grass clippings. As it decomposes grass can start on fire, which obviously is not a good thing to happen at a place with an abundance of flammable materials. The best way to handle your grass clippings is to leave them on your lawn as mulch.
Yard waste pickup begins in April each year and ends October 16 in 2016.
Other ways residents can assist the City in its savings is the way you place your carts out for pickup. Your garbage, recycling and yard waste bins should be placed on the curb, not in the road, with a three foot perimeter to any and all obstructions. In the winter shovel out a place for your carts or place them in the apron of your driveway. It is very important to keep the bins out of the road.
“One of the biggest things is the placement of the carts,” driver Jim Maher said. “We need three feet on all sides. We need to have room to grab the cart.”
Placing the carts in the road is an obstruction in snow removal and street sweeping efforts. In addition you should never park in front of yours or your neighbors carts as this obstruction decreases the efficiency as the drivers as they arrive at each residence or business.
In 2013, the City took back control of garbage and recycling removal from a third party vendor by purchasing automated trucks. The high tech trucks they obtained have an arm that picks up the cart and deposits the material in the truck. These trucks have added to the cost efficiency of the process because they are operated by a single driver who does not have to exit the truck frequently.
“We don’t want the drivers to have to get out of the truck to move carts because that is when injuries happen,” Hurst said. “That is what leads to work time missed and increased costs to the department.”
After pickup, both the recyclable goods and the garbage are loaded into semis to be compacted and delivered to the recycling plant or the landfill. Once it arrives at those two places the items are out of the hands of the Tosa DPW.
“We don’t want the drivers to have to get out of the truck to move carts because that is when injuries happen,”
A team of five regular drivers complete two routes, one each for recycling and garbage, each day. Each resident has their garbage picked up once a week while recycling rotates with yard waste removal. Wauwatosa is the only known Wisconsin community that does dual use pickup of recyclables in the morning and garbage in the afternoon.
Residents should put their carts out on the curb by 7:00 AM each morning, regardless of the timing of past pickups, due to the rotation of drivers. In other words, you should not rely on when your pickup has occurred in past weeks.
In addition to cart placement you can also help the drivers stay safe by the way you approach them when you are out on the road. Similar to a bus it is illegal to cut in front of a truck to make a right turn. Drivers sit on the right side of a cab to be able to operate the pickup arm and have limited sight lines.
“We often can’t see drivers approaching,” Maher said. “We are doing everything through a mirror so we have more blind spots.”
With fall approaching, leaf collection is set to begin October 17 with an end date of November 20. They may continue to pickup the leaves after the end date, but that is dependent on the weather.
For more information please visit the collection services site hosted on wauwatosa.net or call 414-471-8422.