Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Don’t forget yard waste pickup

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Greg Peck
Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Those of you getting Sunday’s Gazette likely noticed a glossy one-page insert with news on front and back. It detailed city of Janesville news and covered everything from budget hearings to holiday busing schedules, tax bills to snow emergency reminders.

It also announced holiday trash and recyclables collections and updated the news on delayed plans for automated trash and recyclables collections. As residents continue to push leaves into streets for this second week of the city’s two-week leaf collection, I found one upcoming service conspicuously absent from this insert.

It did not mention the yard-waste pickup service, coming Nov. 26-30, the week after Thanksgiving.

I called John Whitcomb, city operations director, to ask if perhaps that was absent by design, to hold down the workload should every resident be alerted to this opportunity to place bags of leaves and bundles of brush at curbside for pickup that week.

No, he said. Whitcomb also said he had been out of the office for more than a week and wasn’t even aware that the city was sending out the communications insert.

So here are the details: The week of Nov. 26-30, the city will collect grass, leaves and garden debris placed in containers or bags and bundled brush on the same day as your regular trash pickup. Place your yard waste a few feet apart from your regular trash. Items should be placed at the curb no later than 7 a.m.

Yard waste containers or bags and bundled brush should be no heavier than 50 pounds and no longer than 4 feet and 12 inches in diameter. Using biodegradable paper bags or reusable containers such as plastic trash cans is recommended. Plastic bags can be used but should be untied.

Whitcomb says the city tries to publicize the service well because he understands that it is valuable to residents who don’t have means to haul their own yard waste to the demolition or compost landfills, or during years when leaves are late in falling. That’s not the case this year. Still, my wife and I will have several bags at the curb the week after Thanksgiving. It will save me another trip to the landfill in my little SUV.

The yard-waste pickup is much less labor intensive than the two-week leaf pickup, which involves more than a dozen workers. The yard waste pickup generally involves three older trucks and six or fewer workers. Because much of the material goes to the compost site, it doesn’t have a significant affect on the longevity of the demolition landfill, Whitcomb says.

The city repeats this service the first full week of May each spring.

Only one thing can get in the way of the fall pickup—a significant snowfall. I recall one autumn when snow did hit before the yard-waste pickup. Whitcomb remembers it, too, saying it delayed the waste pickup and caused problems with bags being buried in snow and freezing to the ground.

That’s not as bad, he says, as a significant snowfall occurring before the leaf pickup ends. That can cause leaves to freeze to the street and make street sweeping ineffective. Whitcomb also recalls a year when plows had to go out and pushed the rows of leaves back onto terraces and into driveways.

“You would have thought it was the end of the world, and understandably so,” he says about resulting complaints. “People put a lot of effort into getting that out to the curb, and they want it picked up. That’s why we’ve delayed the collection as late as we can.”

The city has squeezed the leaf pickup, which used to run longer, into the two-week window before Thanksgiving. Start any earlier, and not enough leaves have fallen. Extend it into Thanksgiving week, and too many residents are gone.

Just don’t let all that snacking on Thanksgiving leftovers distract you into forgetting about that yard-waste pickup the next week.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

Last updated: 10:05 am Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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