The figurative winds of change began blowing through the City of Lackawanna on Monday with the first delivery of long-awaited garbage totes for residents.
Unfortunately, real winds off of Lake Erie sent swirling the instructions on how the city’s new garbage collection system will work.
Public works crews delivered about 1,100 of the lidded totes with wheels. They were accompanied by two pages of information on how and when to begin using them, recycling facts and other details about the city’s new garbage system, which is aimed at improving recycling, saving taxpayer dollars and deterring rodents.
Alas, powerful blasts of wind toppled many of the totes and blew away the paper instructions that were tucked inside. The wind was so strong it pushed many of the 95-gallon totes from lawns onto streets.
“It’s pretty frustrating because it was really detailed as to who, what, where,” said Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski, who spent part of Monday picking up downed containers and moving them into areas where they were more protected from the wind.
Monday’s deliveries “couldn’t have been at a worse time,” said Szymanski. “It was a bad day for a good idea.”
The city purchased 8,000 totes for $403,434, which includes retrofitting of three garbage trucks to lift the containers. Public works crews will continue to make deliveries of the totes through the rest of the week, and Szymanski said residents who didn’t receive instructions on Monday will get them at another time.
City Council members debated Monday during their meeting whether to order 100 65-gallon totes for senior citizens who prefer smaller containers.
Fourth Ward Councilman Keith E. Lewis said he’s already received several calls from senior citizens concerned they won’t be able to handle the larger totes.
But Public Works Commissioner Anthony DeSantis urged patience before ordering more totes, saying people should have a chance to try the 95-gallon containers.
“The totes are intimidating to the seniors, but I haven’t had a call that they’re not willing to use them,” he said. “Once they start using this, I think everyone’s going to be happy with it.”
The Council voted 4 to 1 to table Lewis’ request.
The city has an abysmal recycling rate of about 7 percent. City officials hope to encourage more recycling by limiting garbage collection to a single tote and moving toward a single-stream recycling collection.
“The benefit is we get paid for recycling and we pay less for our tipping fees,” said Szymanski.
When enforcement takes effect in December, residents will be allowed to get rid of their garbage using only the designated totes, which are labeled with the city’s seal.
Old garbage cans may be used to place out recyclables, as long as the cans are labeled as such.
Garbage left in cans or bags at the curb after Dec. 2 will not be collected, and violators of the new city policy will be cited.