NORWALK, Conn. – Old recycling bins dotted Soundview Avenue Tuesday evening, hours after City Carting had finished picking up Norwalk’s recyclables and trash on the second day of the city’s transition to single stream recycling and 65-gallon wheeled carts.
But you can’t expect perfection when you’re dealing with 86,000 people, Norwalk’s director of the Department of Public Works told members of the Public Works Committee Tuesday night. He was talking about the challenge of getting the word out, but there are other issues.
“We’re in day two of this thing,” Alvord said. “In the distribution of the carts, some streets got missed, some properties got missed. We had guys on the back of a truck who came from halfway across the country, on a rented truck, with a map and a street list that we gave them. … They worked hard every day distributing these things but they missed some places,” Alvord continued. “I mean, we had an abandoned house out on Fillow Street, single home, abandoned house, they left three carts there. I said, ‘Hey guys, c’mon. We understand you’re not familiar with Norwalk, but really, you know, the cobwebs might have been a clue.’”
Alvord said there are good signs at this early date in the transition – some people are filling their new carts to the brim with recyclables. That means they’re putting less recyclable material in the garbage, he said.
On the other hand, there are many phone calls to Customer Service from people who have problems with the size of the bins and from people who say that’s it, they’re not going to recycle anymore, he said.
Councilman Bruce Kimmel expressed concern for the “crazy situations in Norwalk,” peppering Alvord with questions that included references to people in their 80’s or 90’s living high up on a hill, with a curvy driveway. Those residents who used to put their bin in the trunk and drive down, he said, are asking “what now?”
Alvord and Committee Chairman David McCarthy said smaller, 35-gallon carts are available, but they’re not handing them out yet.
“We’re asking people to give it their best shot,” Alvord said. “Then, if they’ve tried for a couple of weeks and it’s just not working, call customer service. We’re going to have a procedure set up where it’s a City Carting person will go out, verify that there’s an issue, with age, infirmity or disability or something, and replace the 64 with a 35 gallon cart on wheels.”
Kimmel wondered if the residents could use the old bins. Alvord said no.
“They’re trying to do this as efficiently as possible,” Alvord said, of City Carting. “The number of trucks they have purchased and the way they have planned to do these routes is not have the guys jumping out of the truck every other driveway. … We can’t accommodate every unique situation.”
Recyclables left out in old bins are not being picked up. Alvord said City Carting workers are supposed to be picking those up and leaving stickers on them to inform people of the switch, but he had no doubt that wasn’t happening.
While he predicted “Everything will work out,” Common Councilman Matt Miklave (D-District A), who is running for mayor and who did not vote for the 10-year contract with City Carting, said better planning had been in order.
“We can expect things to happen like this,” he said. “I think we should have anticipated it better. It’s not our citizens’ fault that they are human beings and make mistakes. We just have to sort of build in that people are not going to start single stream recycling on Day One with perfection. … I do think that if we expect that everyone for all time is going to be able to follow this program, that’s just foolishness for all time.”