Recycling has piled up in some St. Paul alleys this winter after trucks charged with emptying bins have avoided the iciest pavement.
A year after the city started a new recycling program with nonprofit Eureka Recycling, Eureka and the city’s public works department have a new system for picking up recycling in icy alleys. It means that some alleys can go uncollected for up to three weeks.
Residents are venting — largely on social media — about the overloaded recycling bins in their alleys.
Council Member Chris Tolbert called it “frustrating.”
“I think most Minnesotans expect delays during major storm events or snow events,” said Tolbert, who publicly voiced his own discontent with Eureka last year. “But by and large, outside maybe one or two snow events, I don’t think we’ve had anything outside of standard, expected Minnesota winter conditions.”
St. Paul doesn’t plow alleys, so residents are responsible for hiring crews to keep them clear. That means some alleys get better plowing than others.
After identifying about 100 alleys where recycling collection was a chronic problem last winter, Eureka and St. Paul city staff created a plan for this year.
If an alley looks unsafe, recycling truck drivers will revisit it later in the day. If nothing’s changed, Eureka notifies the city. Public works staff put the information online and send a postcard to residents explaining the delay.
If an alley is still too icy the following week, the city will send a truck to sand it. If that doesn’t work, staff from the city and Eureka will visit the alley and make alternative arrangements, such as directing residents to put their recycling out by the street.
“It’s really been Mother Nature that’s thrown us a curveball,” said Kris Hageman, the city’s recycling and solid waste program manager. But Hageman also says Eureka may have to get different trucks.
Eureka co-president Kate Davenport said the city needs to consider plowing its own alleys.
“We’re continually trying to find ways to work with the city to address this issue,” Davenport said. “We want people to be able to recycle.”