Reduction in Ann Arbor Yard Waste Collection 

A proposal to cut services and increase the cost to citizens

UPDATE - Feb 1, 2008

The Council Agenda for February 4, is now on the City's web site.  The ordinance change to prohibit the use of containers (garbage cans) for the yard waste collection is part of B-1.  The public hearing is PH-1.

Also on the agenda is resolution DS-3 to appropriate $358,200 for the purchase of 96 gallon compost carts.  These are to be sold to local retailers for $60.00 with the condition that they would not mark the carts up by more than $10 for resale. The city proposes to provide each household with a $20 voucher toward the purchase of the cart.

The proposed collection schedule is in  agenda item F-2. The seasonal weekly curbside compostable program is operated from April 1 through October 31.  (At present it continues until November 30) One additional week of compostable collection is provided starting the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Glenn Thompson

UPDATE - Jan 26, 2008  

It is not clear whether the present intend is to reduce the months of collection or not.  The present City Ordinance states that a citizen's container (garbage can) can be used for yard waste collection. If they are no longer acceptable it is necessary for Council to change the ordinance.  City staff should get a good whack up along side the head for trying to change ordinances by a simple memo.

But the ordinance does not specify the collection dates.  Therefore it is possible that the reduction in collection is still intended.  

I urge everyone that is opposed to write or email Council or sign up to speak Feb 4.

Glenn Thompson

UPDATE- Jan 20, 2008

The change in the yard waste collection is now on the January 22, 2008 Council agenda as the first reading of a proposed ordinance change.  At this time it appears the proposed change is that that residents will no longer be able to use their own containers for yard waste collection. Only PURCHASED yard waste carts, paper bags or bundles will be accepted. The estimated cost of the carts is about $100.  - C-1

The reason for the proposed change is now a "quality of life" issue for the yard waste collection personnel. But what about the cost and quality of service for the citizens and the environment?  

The detailed arguments made by the memo for the change do not make sense.  Frozen cans?  Not from April through November.  Over weight cans?  The waste collection personnel do not have to lift and empty overweight containers.  Injury?  Historically the majority of injuries are vehicle related.  It is not surprising that the injury rate in the regular waste collection decreased when the driver always remained in the truck, but there is little evidence that injury rates will decrease just because the yard waste is in hand lifted bags rather than more environmentally positive reuseable containers.

There is also a Communication on the Council Agenda which discusses a city RFP for a contractor to take over the yard waste collection.  The memo states that it is not feasible to limit the yard waste collection to carts only at this time.  The implication is that this is a future intent.

Glenn Thompson

Jan 9, 2008

At the January 7 Council meeting a communication was sent to council from Tom McMurtrie stating that next spring residents will no longer be able to use their own containers for yard waste collection. Only yard waste carts, paper bags or bundles will be accepted. In addition, the yard waste collection is to end October 31 instead of the present November 31. This was proposed as a staff regulation change that does not require City Council to review or act.

This is detrimental to those that currently use their own containers, it may degrade the appearance of the city and it is poor environmental practice. This will be discussed further at the next Council meeting on January 22, 2008. I encourage anyone that opposes these changes to call or email their Council member and express their opinion. The following paragraphs explain some reasons to oppose the proposal.

If you now use your own containers you will be required to purchase a yard waste cart or the yard waste paper bags. When the city supplied the waste collection carts the total cost of the carts to the city was approximately one million dollars. If all households purchase one of the carts this must be considered as an additional one million dollar charge for yard waste collection. This is clearly detrimental to those of us that kept our garbage cans to use for yard waste, as the city suggested only a year or two ago.

The additional cost of yard waste carts and bags will discourage some yard and city property maintenance. Last year the city greatly reduced maintenance of some park areas and some traffic islands. Some citizens, together with at least two of the present council members voluntarily maintained some of these areas. In the case of a cleanup pf sculpture Plaza much of the waste was transferred to garbage can containers. It will be more difficult to encourage volunteer effort, if in addition to our time an work, we must pay to have the vegetative waste removed.

This is poor environmental practice for several reasons. First we are required to purchase something for the sole purpose of discarding it or other materials. Many of us use cloth shopping bags to save a tree or two or a barrel of petroleum. Requiring the purchase of a new plastic cart or paper bags is in opposition to the reuse-recycle policy. In the case of the paper bags; a tree, which is a CO2 absorber, is being cut and converted to paper for the purpose of composting, which releases CO2. This is not an argument against composting, which is generally considered the best method of disposal of leaves and other yard waste, it is only an argument against cutting a living plant for the sole purpose of composting.

The second reason the proposed change is poor environmental practice is simply increasing the cost or difficulty of having the yard waste composted will increase the amount that is simply discarded in the city landfill. And of course all of the garbage cans we now use will end up in the landfill.

The original memorandum is F-2 of the council packet on the City web page:

Email addresses for the Mayor and council are on the city's website. Note that there is a single address at the bottom of the page that sends an email to all council members:

If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

Glenn Thompson

"I am so grateful to our city council for blocking or at least postponing the compostable pickups cutback.

Last fall it was necessary to extend the pickups past Dec.1. This was because the season was so late, with leaves still coming down toward the end of the month. Some streets like E. Stadium are not allowed to shove leaves into the street but must bag them.

As it happened, we got hit with snow by Thanksgiving and I never got my yard cleaned up. But with our warmer weather, November is a seriously important month for yard cleanup. Even if you compost (which I do), branches and other coarse materials need to be disposed of. Composting is not practical or desirable (as an activity) for everyone.

Having the city pick up compostables makes sense in several ways. We have a compost center that actually sells our municipal compost, so that our refuse is recycled into a beneficial product. We no longer send these materials to a landfill. And it is a basic service for a liveable city. Even small lots produce compostables and their disposal should be part of our solid waste services that our millage pays for.

I don’t know what the rationale was to cut back these pickups, but reason doesn’t support it. I’m glad the council put the brakes on.

   —Vivienne Armentrout    Jan 10, 03:28 PM

The Council has not blocked or postponed the proposed change.  They have only agreed to discuss it.

The reasons presented for the change were injuries with the cans and frozen materials in November.  Neither is very valid.  As Vivienne notes November was quite warm.  The City extended the collection into December, and that is when the cold weather occurred.  The city created the freezing problem with an extended December collection and now wants to punish us by eliminating collection in November.

The injury argument is not much better.  Historically most waste collection injuries, or at least the severe ones, are vehicle related.  The vehicle aspect of the collection will not change.  Also it should be noted that the City has issued an RFP to contract for the yard waste collection.  

The real reason seems to a be an effort to reduce collection cost. Again our city proposes to cut services and increase the cost to citizens.

Glenn Thompson