Larger bins cause issues: New recycling containers too big for garages

When Charlie Schmedlap received his new 96-gallon recycling bin at the start of the year, he had a difficult choice to make.

Both his cars and recycling bin don’t fit together in his garage. If he leaves the bin outside, he risks fines from his homeowner’s association for violating their rules about having the bins outside, but he doesn’t want to leave a vehicle out in the elements either.

Schmedlap’s dilemma is one that many of the more than 7,500 homes and businesses served by Best Way Disposal — Greenwood’s recycling and garbage contractor — have faced after the company moved from 18-gallon totes to 96-gallon recycling bins at the start of the year.

The move was intended to create a more efficient system. Recycling is now collected every two weeks rather than once a week, and the larger bins have already resulted in an increase in the amount of recycling that is being collected, Deputy Mayor Terry McLaughlin said. Greenwood residents had 112 tons of recycling in December.

During the first month with the larger bins, they recycled 131 tons, according to data from Best Way. The number of customers involved in the recycling program has increased as well, from 5,600 to about 7,500.

The move also allows Best Way to use an automated arm on its trucks to pick up the bins, rather than employing extra people to ride along with each truck to handle that task manually, McLaughlin said. Changes for garbage collection may be on the horizon as well, as fewer contractors are available to do manual collection of garbage, he said. Some communities, such as Columbus, only provide a 96-gallon bin for recycling. Others, such as Carmel, provide both 96- and 65-gallon bins, depending on what the resident requests.

But Greenwood residents say the larger bins also are creating problems. Some say the bins are unnecessarily large, while others say they don’t have the space to properly store them, and some have received warning letters from homeowner’s associations threatening fines since they are unable to fit the bins in their garages.

Dan O’Brien doesn’t live in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association, so he doesn’t have to worry about any fines since he can’t fit the bin in his garage. But the large bin, which he stores on his back porch, is still an issue, he said.

“I’m not recycling any more (than before),” he said. “I barely fill up half of it.”

Schmedlap said the new recycling bins are much larger than is needed for his household, which only goes through a small amount of recycling and garbage each week.

Greenwood City Council president Mike Campbell said the recycling bins have been the most common complaint he has heard from residents over the past few weeks. Council members Chuck Landon and Linda Gibson agreed.

But the council has no control over the situation, and has brought its concerns to the mayor and the Greenwood Board of Public Works and Safety, which make the decision on what recycling and garbage collection contractor the city uses. All three board members are appointed by the mayor.

McLaughlin has been working with Best Way to come up with a compromise solution and possibly allow residents to use a slightly smaller, 64-gallon bin instead, McLaughlin said. Best Way representatives will be at the next board of works meeting to give an update on how the recycling bin changes have gone, as well as what could be done to provide residents with a more manageable bin size, he said.

Best Way hasn’t made a decision on whether it would bring in the 64-gallon bins, operations manager Chris Roberts said. The recycling trucks can only work with 96- and 64-gallon bins.

How those bins would be paid for or what they would cost isn’t known yet. The company provided the 96-gallon bins to customers, but residents wanting the smaller bins may have to pay for them, McLaughlin said.

Best Way has no plans to move toward automation with its garbage collection yet, Roberts said.

But that is the trend with garbage pickup, McLaughlin said. When the city last requested bids for trash service, Best Way was the only bidder to offer manual curbside pick-up, he said.

As of now, residents provide their own garbage bins and Best Way will take up to five 30-gallon bags or containers of garbage per week, but in future years the city may have no choice but to use a company that requires the larger bins that work with automated pick-up, McLaughlin said.

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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.