Memphis, TN looks at cutting pickup for loose, bulk items to reduce costs

Dive Brief:

  • Memphis, TN's Public Works Division has recommended changing how the city handles collections for loose bulk items to avoid future budget issues by 2020, as reported by The Commercial Appeal.
  • Currently, residents pay $22.80 per month for standard collection and can also leave furniture, leaves or other yard waste next to their cans. Yet a survey showed that only 20% of 1,200 respondents use that service and the city is looking for a way to still provide it to those who do without raising prices for everyone.
  • One proposed solution is allowing residents to lease a maximum of four extra cans for $5 per month or take their waste to a drop-off site. In this scenario, the city would then fine residents that left waste outside their cans $175 per load and $100 per hour.

Dive Insight:

Offering every resident a system they don't all use, or may not use on a regular basis, doesn't necessarily make sense from a financial perspective and Memphis isn't the only city to rethink this approach. Multiple new municipal contracts have included annual bulk waste pick-up service to account for yard work and spring cleaning. Another alternative is to not offer this service at all, though some cities have seen that lead to illegal dumping.

If Memphis does take the route of ticketing it will find lessons from multiple other municipalities on how to approach the issue in a way that doesn't alienate residents. Cleveland took some flak after implementing a system with steep fines for bulk items outside of cans last year after some residents said the change wasn't communicated well enough. In Richmond, a plan to require leaf bagging with the potential for tickets written by police officers making overtime pay has also been met with skepticism.

By charging a little more for this bulk waste, it's possible that Memphis could help encourage waste diversion through furniture donation or yard waste composting as well. The city is currently working to reduce its landfill footprint with a new single-stream recycling program that is reportedly working well after some initial educational adjustments

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Filed Under: Collections & Transfer
Top image credit: Rdikeman