It’s week four of St. Paul’s new recycling program and while haulers are collecting more material than in the past, frustrations persist with how the changes have been rolled out.
People called the city’s contractor, Eureka Recycling, with complaints and questions 2,700 times in the first week after the program began Jan. 16. The company missed entire streets, and many people were confused about how to correctly set out their new wheeled carts. But last week the number of calls dropped to about 700 and has continued to decline since then, said Lynn Hoffman, Eureka co-president.
“We’re seeing lots of improvement,” she said. “It was a lot of change at one time for everybody.”
City Council members warned Eureka staff Wednesday, after an update, that problems need to be fixed soon. Council members aired the frustrations they have been hearing from many constituents and asked for another report in a month.
“Fix it. Get it done. We hired you to do a service . … Live up to the contract,” Council Member Chris Tolbert said. He warned that if problems persist after 90 days the city could look at legal options.
St. Paul and Eureka have focused on educating people and problem solving, often on a case-by-case basis. Some people did not get a cart and put out the old bins. Others placed the carts in the wrong spot. Certain alleys were too narrow for the standard truck to navigate and had to be added to a route for smaller trucks.
Residents also got new pickup times and could recycle different items, and Eureka started collecting recyclables from alleys. The city hoped the changes would prompt people to recycle more, and the plan appears to be working.
As of Feb. 6, Eureka processed more than 1,291 tons of recyclable material — a 19 percent increase over the amount collected in that time period last year, said Ellen Biales, with the city’s Public Works Department.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in tonnage,” Hoffman said. “We’re excited about long-term prospects.”