More Dogs on Main
July 20, 2012
It was only ten years ago that garbage collection in Summit County changed from the old system of a guy walking behind the garbage truck, tipping cans into the back of the truck, to the new automated system. We got the big rolling bins.
The bins, which are the size of Volkswagens, forced a major garage reconfiguration to find space for the trash can and still have room for the car. There was a near riot in Old Town, where people complained that the garbage bin took up half their lot and the only parking place. That was before people started cramming Park Meadows-sized houses onto Old Town lots.
Under heavy fire, the county decided to provide smaller bins for Old Town and the hostilities ended. But in that year’s Follies, Dr. Hanrahan, then known for delivering babies, performed a skit where a big garbage bin gave birth to a baby garbage bin. At the time, he didn’t know that, later, he would be on the County Council and have the chance to repeat the performance.
We’re at it again, with the roll-out of the new recycling system. For about 90% of county residents, it’s gone smoothly, other than a bit of retraining. The garbage gets sorted a little differently, and we have to remember if it is a recycling week or not. For the other 10%, it has flopped spectacularly.
There are few interactions with government that hit as close to home as trash pickup. In a very literal sense, Summit County is right here, rearranging the cabinet under my kitchen sink to accommodate different containers for the new sorting process. Government doesn’t get much closer than that.
When garbage pickup goes smoothly, we don’t even notice. Garbage day is one of the constants in life. There’s no middle ground with trash pickup. It’s either fine and invisible, or the mountain of rotten melon rinds is still there, stinking up the garage for a second week. It seems so simple that we all just expect it to happen. Like how hard can it be? Well, apparently, it’s not as simple as it looks.
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I live in a location where I just assumed it wouldn’t happen easily. There is that challenging 10% of homes in the county places where the roads are too steep for standard garbage trucks, or the roads are too narrow and we have to haul the can out to the corner. I’m probably in the more challenging 1% of that, so it was no surprise that I didn’t get a new bin delivered. I waited patiently for a week, and then called the contractor.
The people on the phone have been remarkably pleasant. Reports are that they have had something like 3,000 phone calls from people who either didn’t get bins or are so oblivious to what goes on around them that they didn’t understand why they did get bins. And a few callers reportedly wanted to let them know that they were not going to do any Park City-commie-pinko-recycling no matter what, and weren’t going to sort their garbage because there is something in the Constitution that says they don’t have to, dadgummit.
The folks at Republic Services were calm, understanding, and, when I pressed them for a little insight into what problems they were running into, expressed some relief that I was not shouting at them as some callers do. Talking to them, I had the sense that they had been given the same medications they give the employees at Deer Valley. The conversations and there have now been three on the phone and one with the actual truck driver standing in the middle of Highway 35 have all been absolute models of quality customer service. Except that I still don’t have the new garbage bin and don’t quite know what to put in the can, or whether it will be picked up because it’s the wrong container for this week.
My neighborhood has not had curbside recycling before. To recycle, I have to haul it someplace. There are places in Kamas where I can get rid of newspaper. But everything else has to get dragged to the Park City Recycling Center. It is almost always a special trip and requires converting my car to a garbage truck at least temporarily. The recycling center requires a CPA level of sorting that means I have several containers spread out across the length of the garage. No matter how careful I am, it’s never quite up to their standards. Who knew you had to alphabetize the labels?
So I’m really looking forward to the convenience of being able to put all the recyclables in one container and get rid of it without messing up the car. Maybe next week it will happen, or the week after. They assured me I’m on the list. Still.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.