There is a plethora of bad information coming from the city and being repeated on social media about the action taken by the City Council to end loose leaf collection.
At the top of the list is Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter stating repeatedly at the City Council meeting and on various social media sites that the city is “not ending loose leaf collection.” This is wrong.
On Tuesday, Aug. 15, the City Council voted to stop loose leaf collection at the end of the 2023-2024 leaf season, which runs from Nov. 1, 2023 to the second week in February 2024. Most of the provisions in the ordinance go into effect on March 1, 2024. But since the city only collects piles of leaves raked or blown to the street through the second week in February, the new system of collecting leaves won’t go into effect until Nov. 1, 2024.
Another misconception is that with this new program the city will increase its yard waste collection to once a week. The city currently collects yard waste once a week, the new system does not increase the frequency. The city collects recycling every other week, but yard waste and garbage is scheduled for pick up every week.
The differences in the new system for year-round yard waste collection is that the city will at some point, and currently no one knows when, provide residents with a 95 gallon gray yard waste bin, similar to the current garbage and recycling bins the city provides.
After March 1, the city will no longer collect plastic bags of yard waste but will only collect biodegradable paper bags of yard waste including leaves. Up until March 1, 2024, the city will only collect clear plastic bags of yard waste. The city website currently states, “Using black plastic bags, paper bags and green recycling bags will result in non-collection.”
The City Council did not allow for a transition period for the switch from only collecting clear plastic bags to only collecting biodegradable paper bags.
What the city calls “Yard Waste Service Enhancement” also places a limit on the number of paper bags of yard waste that can be placed on the street each week at 10, and during leaf season 15. Currently there is no limit, but the city asks residents to “please limit” the total of bags, containers and bundles of yard waste to 10 each week.
The injuries that Councilmembers Abuzuaiter and Sharon Hightower talked about at the Council meeting and that were listed on the city staff report are not injuries to city workers vacuuming up the leaves. At the Aug. 10 work session, Councilmember Hugh Holston asked if the 68 injuries over the past five years listed in the report were of loose leaf collection workers.
Griffin Hatchell from the Field Operations Department said, “They are not separated. It is part of the yard waste system.”
Councilmember Zack Matheny went into this in more detail at the Aug. 15 City Council meeting and said that his research showed that most of the injuries came from bulk collection and said, “you can’t attribute a single injury to loose leaf collection.”
So the there is no statistical evidence that changing the system from vacuuming leaves to picking up paper bags of leaves is going to reduce injuries in the Field Operations Department.