An 85-year-old woman who lives alone in Old Irving Park was surprised recently when, on her appointed yard waste pickup day – Monday – the City of Greensboro yard waste collection crew had not picked up the eight bags of leaves that lined the front of her yard.

She assumed the crew had just somehow missed her house that day.

However, another collection date came and went with no collection, and, after she called the city’s information line, she got the answer.  The city employee asked if the leaves were bagged in black bags, which they were, and the woman was told that the city had just begun enforcing a policy that bagged leaves must be in clear bags.

City crews have picked up leaves bagged in black bags in the past, despite a 1992 city ordinance that states that using non-clear bags would result in non-collection.

In 2022, 30 years later, the city suddenly decided to start enforcing the rule without telling anyone.

The call center employee said that, since the rule was on the books, there was no need to inform the public of the change in enforcement policy.

The city’s call center employee told the 85-year-old woman that she needed to load the bags into her car and take them to a landfill or get some clear bags and rebag the leaves.

The woman told the city employee that she was astonished the city would make a change like that without informing the public.  The woman told the Rhino Times later, “The city mails a newsletter out to everyone – that would be the perfect place to announce it.”

The city could, of course, have also done so in a press release and let the media inform the public of the major change in enforcement policy.

In another call to the city from a family member, the family member explained that the woman had moved to Greensboro from Chapel Hill and her yard workers doing work in her yard also came in from Chapel Hill.  So, she was completely unaware the clear bag rule even existed, as were her yard workers.

The family member requested that, since the woman was 85 years old and lived alone, and since the city had always picked up black bags in the past, could the city please collect these bags from her yard one last time, and, in the future, the woman would know to always use clear bags.

The family member was told no, the city would not pick up the leaves.

When the Rhino Times asked Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughn if the Greensboro City Council had made the decision to start enforcing the rule, Vaughan said the council had not and she said this was the first she had heard of any change.

“I was not aware of it,” Vaughan said of the change.  “That surprises me.”

Thanks to the mayor, however, the story has a happy ending.

Vaughan asked the Rhino Times for the woman’s address and said she would look into the matter and see what could be done.

Vaughan must have some pull with the City of Greensboro, because, within hours, the 85-year-old woman was delighted to find her black bags of leaves had been whisked away.