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New Hires, Protocols for Fitchburg Trash Pickup

November 14, 2018

Trash is collected on Pine Street in Fitchburg on Tuesday afternoon. City leaders have fielded complaints about service, but Waste Management officials are vowing improvements. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE/JOHN LOVE Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

FITCHBURG -- Waste Management officials told city councilors that recent staffing changes and newly implemented protocols will improve curbside pickup service.

“We’re working to get better. Again, to be frank, I kind of took on a large mess when I took over in this waste management facility, but again I think we’re making headway,” Waste Management’s Manager of Collections Operations Matt Hill told councilors Thursday.

Residents have complained about the waste removal company skipping entire streets on collection days, said At-Large Councilor Marcus DiNatale.

Hill, who was hired June 2017 to oversee trash collection for two-thirds of the state, said the company added a “street supervisor” to help address late or missed pickups.

The supervisor inspects waste, monitors whether it’s picked up on time and reports that information back to the Board of Health, he said. Having the supervisor has helped reduce the rate of missed pickups in the city, according to Hill.

“Misses are down, because it falls on his shoulders,” said Hill.

Hill also said the company has “turned over” its staff of drivers on the Fitchburg route. Employees were forced to resign, he said, and Waste Management is in the process of hiring replacements.

“There was just some bad apples that had to go,” he said.

A new fleet of trucks is expected to hit city streets, and this winter they will have snow tires to ensure the vehicles don’t get stuck in hilly neighborhoods, said Hill.

The volume of yard waste collected this fall is 25 percent greater than last year, according to Hill. He said yard waste pickups have been delayed recently because the collection truck reaches capacity before finishing its route.

Health Director Stephen Curry encouraged residents to report missed pickups using the ReCollect app or the website SeeClickFix, which forwards the complaint to Waste Management.

Ed Pacek, with Waste Management Public Sector Solutions Division, updated councilors on progress made to cut down on rates of contaminated recycling in the city.

He said a “recycling crisis” was precipitated by China’s decision to effectively stop accepting recyclables from oversees, boosting the cost of recycling disposal domestically.

An initial audit of 11 truckloads of recyclables tossed by Fitchburg residents found 44 percent of the waste was contaminants, said Pacek. An acceptable rate of contamination is between 5 to 10 percent, he said.

The city received a grant to help publicize which items can be recycled, and recently performed a second audit. As of Tuesday, the city had not yet received the results of the second audit, according to Curry.

Plastic bags and plastic shrink wrap are the most common contaminate found in the city’s recycling, said Pacek. The bags jam equipment used to sort recycling, and should instead be thrown in the trash or dropped off at a supermarket that collects them.

“On our end that’s probably the single most important point,” he said.

Other items that are not recyclable are hoses, electrical cords, pill bottles, cartons with aseptic lining and “organic matter.”

Waste Management won’t collect visibly contaminated recycling. Curry said residents risk a ticket it they overfill their recycling bins to the point where the lid will not shut, a violation of city ordinance.

“Barrels that have the potential, in the dumping process, to spill all over the ground, (barrels) that are so overflowing, are rejected,” he said.

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