Sunday, June 8, 2008

City Improving Trash Collection

No one in Lancaster knows more about garbage, trash, and litter than Michael J. Devaney. He's the manager of the city’s Bureau of Solid Waste and Recycling.

And when it comes to waste, he has a passion and a goal: keep Lancaster clean. To that end, Devaney has all kinds of simple rules:

• Put the trash and garbage out on the curbside the night before the scheduled collection.
• No pizza boxes in recycle bin.
• Only use tied up bags without rips or tears.
• Trash cans must have tight fitting lids.
• Don't store trash cans in the front of the property, on a porch, or in view of the public.

There are many more.

"There has been over 20 years of bad waste management," Devaney says. "Now we are going zero to 60 in just a few months." And things are changing, all for a cleaner, nicer, and tidy Lancaster.

The city's new single trash hauler program is well underway. It eliminates multiple garbage trucks on the same narrow city streets on the same day. Even the haulers did not know where their customers were. Trash and garbage bags were often overlooked, not necessarily deliberately, but more likely, because of confusion. Less refuse collection trucks are now on the city streets.

The city's Solid Waste Education & Enforcement Program (S.W.E.E.P.) is now operational. Two S.W.E.E.P. officers, dressed in khaki slacks and a green shirt, are walking around Lancaster, looking for trash problems, and pointing them out to residents and property owners.

They are issuing plenty of Official S.W.E.E.P Notices – long, green door hangars, with one side printed in English, the other side in Spanish. They’re just another tool in Devaney's arsenal to fight city trash.

Devaney quickly says he is not interested in issuing citations. Information and education are his primary weapons in making Lancaster cleaner. He is not above talking to the city’s kids, teaching them about proper trash disposal. Devaney knows the kids will teach their parents. "Some of the kids like to tattle on their parents," he said. The newly-educated kids become part of his army of Lancasterians determined to make Lancaster litter free.

But a fair warning to litter bugs: beware. Devaney is ready to squash those that would dirty his beloved city streets and sidewalks. Haulers have been cited last year, and Devaney will continue enforcement actions against anyone that deliberately breaks the city's solid waste laws.

One problem he noted is that landlords and tenants don't always communicate well when it comes to trash. Devaney tries to get both the landlords and tenants educated as to what they need to do, rather than just issue a citation.

What he wants is compliance with the laws and rules, and he works hard to get it.