Mayor Ron Corbett isn’t the only one at City Hall trying to figure out why city crews are picking up less garbage during their weekly curbside pickups.
In the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012, the amount of garbage that city trucks picked up outside 40,000 households was down 672 tons, to 18,529 tons from 19,201 tons the year before, a 3.5-percent drop. It’s down 6.3 percent or 1,172 tons from the 19,701 tons picked up in the year that ended June 30, 2010.
At the first-year anniversary of the city-issued Garbys, Corbett wonders if the leaner-looking, gray-colored garbage containers somehow might be convincing people to put less into them and, perhaps, recycle more.
The drop in collected garage might not be dramatic, but every tons counts, the mayor says.
“From a volume standpoint, it’s tons and tons of garbage that isn’t buried,” says Corbett, a fact that will extend the life of the metro area’s landfill, he adds.
Mark Jones, the city’s solid waste/recycling manager, notes that the Garbys hold 35 gallons of garbage, which is the same amount of garbage that residents were supposed to have been putting in garbage cans before the arrival of the Garby. However, some residents, no doubt, may have stuffed more garbage into the traditional rotund garbage cans, which they had purchased on their own in the pre-Garby era, Jones allows. But most of the old, round cans also were 35-gallon ones, he says, even if they give the appearance they might hold more than the Garby.
In the end, Jones says he just doesn’t know why city crews are picking up less.
“That’s encouraging, but to give you a specific reason, I cannot tell you why,” says Jones. (story continues after chart)
Cedar Rapids’ residents on the city’s garbage pickup routes did recycle a bit more — 243 more tons, a 3 percent increase — in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012. So, perhaps, Corbett is on to something about the look and feel of the Garby and the idea that it steers more of what went into garbage cans into the city’s blue recycling containers.
At the same time, though, those residents recycled less in fiscal year 2012 — 367 tons less — than they did in fiscal year 2010 even as they were throwing out 1,172 tons less garbage in 2012 than in 2010.
At a recent meeting of the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency board of directors, some board members suggested that a drop in tons of garbage picked up on Cedar Rapids’ garbage routes might be a reflection of a slowdown in the national economy. People may be buying less and buying fewer non-food items that come with a lot of packaging, some on the board said.
The Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency is not much help in divining what is up. In the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2012, the agency put a total of 194,587.96 tons of garbage in the landfill compared to a total of 194,587.66 tons the years before. Five-sixths of what goes into the landfill comes from commercial haulers, with just one sixth coming from municipal pickups in Cedar Rapids and Marion.
In Iowa City, the city’s curbside garbage collection was down a small amount in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012, to 9,048 tons from 9,062 tons the year before.
Jennifer Jordan, recycling coordinator for the city of Iowa, says the city of Iowa City’s garbage numbers don’t reveal anything but normal year-to-year fluctuations. However, the city’s landfill takes in garbage from all of Johnson County as well as from Riverside and Kalona, and in total, the landfill took in 125,304 tons of garbage in calendar year 2006, which declined to 119,778 tons in 2010 and to 116,953 tons in 2011.
Much of the decline is the result of recycling and composting, but some, Jordan suggests, is likely due to the down economy.
Paul Schultz, resource management coordinator at the city of Dubuque’s Public Works Department, reports that the city of Dubuque has more in its garbage stream than a year before, which he suspects is coming in large part because the city no longer recycles glass.
However, Schultz, like Cedar Rapids’ Jones, say figuring out the garbage, recycling and yard waste streams is no easy task because there are so many moving parts. He asks this, for instance: Are residents starting to put more food waste into their yard-waste carts rather than their garbage carts as cities have been recommending?
The city of Cedar Rapids’ recent data, though, offers no certainties on that front either.
Cedar Rapids residents put 14,709 tons of yard waste in their carts in 2010, 14,326 tons in 2011 and 13,027 tons in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012. One thing that is certain: the drop in 2012 is largely because of a one-month drop in yard waste in June 2012. And that drop, no doubt, is attributable to this summer’s drought. In June 2011, Cedar Rapids’ yard-waste carts took in 2,490 tons of yard waste and in June 2012, just 977 tons.