Proposal for standardized bulk, leaf collection gets mixed reaction in Richmond, VA

Dive Brief:

  • Richmond, VA Mayor Levar Stoney has proposed a new $4.1 million plan for the collection of bulk items and leaves in the city to help standardize what many see as an inefficient system, as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
  • Bulk items are currently collected by crews on request, though wait times have recently reached six weeks. Leaves are collected annually with a vacuum truck. The new plan would make these collections bi-weekly for an additional monthly charge of $2.50 per household. Residents would also have to begin bagging their leaves.
  • Off-duty police officers would also be paid to enforce this new system by issuing warnings and tickets to households that didn't follow the schedule. The current budget proposal allocates $300,000 per year in overtime for these officers. Multiple members of the Richmond City Council have expressed their doubts.

Dive Insight:

Few would argue that Richmond's current system is working well, though the reaction to Stoney's proposal also shows a resistance to change. The city says that additional revenue from the monthly bill increase would help the Department of Public Works cover a large portion of new operating costs. While on-demand pick-up may work for larger commercial clients in some cities, a regular schedule will likely make routing more efficient for public works crews when it comes to residential bulk items.

Getting residents to accept the leaf bagging requirement may be more difficult. Concerns have been raised about challenges for elderly people and about the fact that bagged leaves would be taken to a landfill rather than turned into mulch. Residents that want to use biodegradable bags would likely have to drop them off at a designated municipal site. Yard waste collection issues have also come up in Kentucky and Nebraska recently, showing that the environmental factors largely depend on regional processing options.

As for the potential of increased enforcement, the city may get pushback from residents. Last year, Cleveland experienced this when residents got upset about receiving tickets for not complying with a new system despite a warning period. These questions and many others will be hashed out by Richmond's City Council during budget negotiations in the coming months.

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Filed Under: Collections & Transfer Waste Diversion
Top image credit: Wikimedia; Anderskev