Schenectady County

Schenectady trash pickup leaves some fuming

Let’s hope you didn’t try to recycle your newspapers this week.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Let’s hope you didn’t try to recycle your newspapers this week.

Monday’s recycling didn’t make it too far — all of it went directly into the trash. That’s because workers were told to give up on recycling for the day since they had to spend so much time digging the trash out of 10 inches of snow.

By Wednesday, however, recycling was back on. Except in some places where it wasn’t.

Unhappy residents along Ten Eyck Avenue watched as at least one trash collector tossed recycling in with the trash.

These are residents who say they have meticulously sorted and washed everything that could possibly be recycled in their houses and they intended for it all to get to the recycling center. One man said he snatched his recycling containers away from a trash collector and brought them back inside when he realized they were going to be thrown in with the trash.

“I’m fuming,” Paul Pakan said. “It’s gotten to the point where some neighbors will not recycle. They say, ‘Why should we bother?’ ”

He still puts his recyclables out, but he said he doesn’t trust the city to take the next step. Whenever possible, he watches the trucks to make sure his cans and bottles are thrown into the right vehicle.

“If I’ve gone through the trouble of putting the glass, the metal, the paper, the plastic — why should I be doing this when they’re going to dump it in the same truck?” he said. “If I catch them, I’ll bring the cans back in.”

He and his neighbors have confronted trash collectors on several occasions, so they’ve heard all the reasons for trashing recyclables.

There’s the snow, of course, but more common are equipment breakdowns and worker injuries that leave the city without enough vehicles or people to collect everything separately.

Pakan calls them all “weak excuses.”

OLSEN ANGRY

But the city offered no excuses on Wednesday. Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen was just as angry as Pakan when The Daily Gazette showed him a photo of a trash collector dumping recyclables into a garbage truck.

“Someone is going to get a New Year’s treat from me,” Olsen said grimly.

It wasn’t just one errant employee. At least two city workers were involved, he added, explaining that trash collectors wouldn’t touch recycling containers unless the recycling collector offered them something in exchange for getting out of work early.

Then the recycling collector could abandon his route while the trash collectors gathered up bags of garbage and boxes of recyclables.

“There will be discipline,” Olsen said. “It’s discouraging for people who bother to segregate [trash].”

Most of the city’s recycling did make it to the county’s center on Wednesday: 4 tons of plastic, metal and glass and 7.65 tons of paper were delivered, senior solid waste supervisor Bill Macejka said.

Last year, on today’s date, the city recycled 2.8 tons of plastic, metal and glass and 5 tons of paper, he said. The amount has been growing steadily: in 2005 on the same date the city recycled 2 tons of containers and 4.8 tons of paper.

“We’ve definitely increased our numbers, one of the goals we’ve been trying to do here,” he said.

Recycling is typically greater right after the holidays, partly because many residents recycle the cardboard packaging from Christmas presents and the containers used to cook holiday meals, Olsen said. The city sees a significant savings by recycling that material rather than paying for it to be landfilled.

“Of all times of the year, this time of year we rely on for our recycling numbers,” he said.

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