There’s a sound that really gets me moving on Friday morning. It’s the whine of the trash truck at my neighbor’s house, when I realize I forgot to take out the trash the night before. I sprint out the back door, stack the recycling bins on top of the garbage bin, and wheel everything down the driveway as quick as my bare feet can travel. No doubt it provides great comic relief for the trash collectors.
Memphis, of course, has a historic connection to the men (and now, women) who pick up its garbage. They are rightfully honored for their courage during the civil rights era. And the battle cry “I Am a Man” still resonates with many in this city. Now, due to the budget crunch, it appears change is coming to the way we collect our trash.
Memphis’ refuse collection is much better than in other cities where I’ve lived. We get weekly trash service, plus weekly glass/paper/cardboard/metal/plastic recycling pickup. In addition, if you put almost anything else at the curb — bags of leaves, piles of branches, an old couch, a discarded Christmas tree — it generally gets picked up within a week or so. This service costs Memphians $25.05 a month. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.
A number of proposals to save money on trash collection are being bandied about. Some of these are really shortsighted — such as cutting recycling to every other week and reducing collection of yard waste and trash outside bins to three times year.
We should be encouraging recycling, not making it more difficult. The city gets paid for recycled material, so let’s figure out a way to incentivize people to do more of it. Imagine how much of the “garbage” in Memphis bins is glass, paper, cardboard, metal, or plastic. If we increase the level of recycling, we reduce the amount of trash that needs to be picked up and put in a landfill. Win-win, right?
And reducing the collection of yard waste and other trash to three times a year is simply a recipe for more vermin and more trash on the street — and more guys in pickup trucks who’ll pick up your trash and junk for a few bucks and dump it who knows where.
All this is being considered in order to save around $5 million a year. Really? How about just raising the rate a couple bucks a month, and/or charging extra fees if a customer exceeds a certain volume of trash? If you put out 27 bags of leaves and I mulch and/or compost mine, maybe you should pay more. Such a fee might even motivate more people to mulch, a greener way to go.
Trash pickup is something Memphis does pretty well. Surely we can figure out a way to maintain that level of service and save a few bucks through a combination of increased fees and smarter collection procedures.
Let’s think outside the bag.