Getting 11,000 residential households accustomed to a new way of sorting out their garbage has prompted a forehead-slapping flood of phone calls to Ceres Public Works Department staff members.
The rollout of the third residential waste container for recycling on Jan. 1 has been met with lots of questions, on top of community blight resulting from non-compliance of container storage rules.
“It seems there’s so much confusion,” admitted Toni Cordell, Administrative Analyst with the Ceres Department of Public Works. “It’s really been overwhelming with all of the calls and confusion that people have been having.”
Ceres households were delivered a third container ahead of the Jan. 1 start of the new system, which was mandated by state legislation to expand organics recycling. State lawmakers crafted the law to reduce the amount of trash going to landfills in California.
Leading up to the change, last year the city and the Courier ran a series of articles informing residents of how waste is to be sorted into the three cans once the new program began but lingering questions remain for some.
“The whole change in service essentially, in the simplest way of explaining it, is you’re now using your black can for garbage and your green cart primarily is for yard waste,” said Cordell. “We encourage you, and you can put the food scraps and the food soiled paper and those things in there. But those are really the only changes to service. Your recycling service hasn’t changed at all.”
The contents of the green cans are composted at a facility.
The rules for the color-coded cans are as follows:
• The blue cart is for used exclusively for recyclables such as beverage containers and plastic bottles and jugs, paper, junk mail, newsprint, tin cans, glass bottles and jars and bottles. The blue cart will be collected every other week.
• The green cart is for organics such as food waste, grass clippings, yard waste, leaves, garden waste and food soiled paper. Food waste includes banana and other fruit peelings, discarded food from the plate, spoiled foods, out-of-date foods, meat scraps and fats. The new green organics cart will be collected weekly at the same time as the black waste cart.
• The black or gray cart is for all other household garbage which is collected each week.
Some of the confusion about colors of cans is due to some households previously using a green cart for garbage disposal instead of a black cart. The city said it’s important to remember that since Jan. 1, regular household waste goes in black carts and organics waste into the green carts.
Some residents took questions and complaints to the Ceres City Council during the first council meeting of the year on Jan. 10.
Lee Brandt said he and wife Shelia figured out “what goes where” but had a question about where to place table and food scraps, such as grease and steak and chicken bones.
“I’m not the only one that’s confused about what the heck to do with the food waste,” Brandt told the council. He later said he had been putting food waste in plastic bags inside the black can and asked for a clarification. “I understand it’s a big long learning curve for everybody but maybe we can get some clarification.”
Mayor Javier Lopez said that the city prefers food scraps to go into the green organics cart which is picked up every week. Food should not be placed in a plastic bag, however. The other option is to use brown paper bags from grocery stores.
Cordell said that Ceres residents have the option to buy compostable bags in which to store food scrap until they go in the cart.
“I haven’t pushed that out there because I don’t people to feel like they’re expected to go out and make that extra purchase,” said Cordell.
Ceres resident John Warren voiced to the council a different concern – the vast number of residents who continue to keep their cans in public view all the time.
“I see – just driving up and down Moffet and looking down Acorn and Fowler, some of the areas that I traverse – the black cans are still out in the street in the very spot where they were delivered,” said Warren. “They’ve never even been moved off the street.”
He also commented that Christmas Tree Lane residents left their cans out in the street during December. Warren said it has further added to the blight in Ceres and he has repeatedly called for the city to begin enforcement against the practice.
“We don’t need our garbage sitting out on the curb 24/7. Cans need to be …not in public view when they’re not set out to be dumped.”
Since July 2021 it is against the Ceres Municipal Code for residents to leave waste containers in public view – even on private property – unless they are set out for collection. Containers may be set out on the curb the night before collection but must be stored out of view by the end of collection day.
Vice Mayor Bret Silveira told Warren that there have been problems with the delivery of 11,000 new cans throughout Ceres. He noted that some homes which had two containers for garbage waste were inadvertently issued a new extra can. Since four cans aren’t needed, those residents left them on the street for retrieval by Bertolotti, the city’s contract garbage hauler.
“It’s a work in progress – they’re working on it,” said Silveira.
However, Warren pressed that the city has not been enforcing or educating residents that they cannot store their garbage cans on their property to where they are visible from public view.
“This just adds 11,000 more that are out there and no one’s enforcing the rule to put them out of sight,” said Warren.
Silveira said he was sure more enforcement will be forthcoming and asked Warren to be patient.
Cordell told the Courier that her department has three employees on the lookout to warn violators who leave their cans before citations with penalties are given. After the warning, repeat offenders will be cited $25 for the first offense and $100 for the second.
For now, Cordell is mostly focused with helping Cereans get settled on the changes.
Because of the new organics program, the contents of the black trash carts should be vastly reduced, Cordell noted. Black cans will continue to be used for such things as soiled diapers, kitty litter and pet waste, broken glass, broken appliances, wood scraps, incandescent light bulbs, toothpaste tubes, food wrappers and plastic wraps.
Cordell said a new recycling guide is available on the city’s website, and will be sent out in the February billings. It gives details for schedules and what goes where. To access that, visit https://www.ci.ceres.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/4910/2022-Garbage-Organics-and-Recycling-Service-Schedule