Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Monday Map: Residential Solid Waste Service Areas

Map of residential solid waste service areas in Montgomery County, Maryland

View larger version of map (PDF)

At first glance, this may look like a jigsaw puzzle.

It's actually a map showing our 13 residential refuse and recyclable materials collection service areas. We partitioned Montgomery County into 13 areas to manage the collection of residential trash, recycling, and yard trim materials.

Each area is serviced by a company whose business it is to provide collection services. These companies are under contract with Montgomery County and are known as our Collection Contractors.

How do you know if a collection vehicle is a Montgomery County contractor? Look for the big blue vehicles running on Compressed Natural Gas.

The Division of Solid Waste Services assigns a Collections Inspector to each area. These County employees are on the street every collection day to make sure pickups are performed safely, efficiently, and completely.

Think your material was not collected as it should be? Our Collections staff is just a 311 phone call away. (From out-of-County, dial 240-777-0311; TTY: 301-251-4850)

Come back next Monday to learn why the Service Areas are shaped like they are.

--Angie Braun

Monday, April 22, 2013

Collectors and Inspectors on the Move!

Map of Montgomery County, Maryland, roads 

The use of maps helps our collectors and inspectors traverse the many roads in Montgomery County. We also embrace new technology, like GPS units and aerial photos, to find our way around the maze.

Collection route boundaries are designed to balance workloads. Collection routes within each boundary are designed for safety and efficiency. Did you know that solid waste trucks only make right turns? (unless it’s not possible).

Clearly marked streets and properties are essential not only for Solid Waste services, but for public safety as well. Could we find your house in an emergency?

--Angie Braun

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Top Five Challenges for Container Placement after Collection

A recent post on the “Silver Spring Speaks” blog listed the placement of empty recycle and trash containers as one of the top five challenges to pedestrians. As Solid Waste Services wants to provide great collections and customer service, this complaint concerned me.

To gather perspective on the container placement issue, I made unannounced inspections of several Silver Spring neighborhoods after collection last week. The morning I went out was sunny, with just a bit of wind. However, many collection days have the added obstacles such as heavy rain, winds, or construction.

The Silver Spring Speaks post included this photo to illustrate the collection day “obstacle courses” for pedestrians. The same photo demonstrates some obstacles and challenges for collectors as well:

Challenge #1: Bin replacement location after collection

All trash and recycling containers set out for pick up must be placed within 10 feet of the curb. This helps increase the efficiency of collection. It also helps crews know which items residents want them to take.

What should be a simple task – putting bins and cans back at the curb after they have been emptied – is often not so easy.

Here are two cases in which crews placed containers at the edge of driveways, not in the driveways themselves, or on the main part of the lawn. Collection crews try to avoid blocking streets and sidewalks.

Trash can and recycling containers set on grass next to driveway.

On this street, I found clear sidewalks, with the right-of-way as the "point of collection":

View of street with trash cans and recycling containers on grass right-of-way strip

Challenge #2: Morning traffic can be hectic

Drivers don’t like waiting behind collections trucks. This pressure forces the crews to keep moving, and to make quick decisions about where to place containers.

Still, most of the neighborhoods with sidewalks I checked on this day looked like this one:

Street view of clear sidewalk, with trash cans and recycling containers along the curb.

So... why are there containers in the sidewalks and streets?

Challenge #3: Empty cans or carts are not as stable as full cans

Here are two examples of cans on their sides after crews emptied them. It is tempting to think that the workers were sloppy in replacing the cans. On a closer look, they appear to have fallen over due to a light wind or passing vehicle, rather than having been carelessly thrown onto the sidewalk.

When containers have material inside them, that material helps to weigh them down. Empty containers lack that benefit, and are prone to tipping over.

Trash can on its side, with the lid off.Paper recycling cart pitched forward onto a recycling bin.


Challenge #4: Landscaping doesn’t allow for placement of cans

Some sidewalk and landscape configurations make it difficult, if not impossible, for crews to keep containers out of the way. Here, they tried to minimize impact to the sidewalk by replacing containers as close to the retaining wall as they could.

Other times, the street is the only option:

Challenge #5: Help us

I offer this challenge to our residents who don’t want their streets and sidewalks blocked by containers on collection day. What ideas do you have for easing container placement?

Some suggestions:
  • Remove the containers shortly after collection.
  • Provide a stable point of collection.

This resident modified the front of their property to provide the collectors with a flat and recessed point of collection.

Although this solution will not work for all residents, it demonstrates that there is no simple solution for container placement.

That said, if our collection crews are consistently not returning containers to the point of collection – the place at which you set out your containers -- please call the County’s Customer Service Center at 311. We have staff monitoring the daily activities of collections contractors. Our field staff responds promptly to issues, recording violations as situations dictate.

We in Solid Waste Services are committed to do what we can to keep pedestrians moving safely! Let us know your suggestions for improved recycling and trash collection services.

Jessica Fusillo, Collections Communications
Keeping you in touch with the latest in residential recycling and collections!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Map: Where Does the Solid Waste Go?

View larger version of map (PDF)

Most people are probably not aware of what happens to the trash, recycling, and yard trim material after it’s picked up from the curb. In addition to Collections, the Division of Solid Waste Services has a state-of-the-art operation for the transfer and disposal or recycling of the collected material.

This map shows our 3 major facilities and the functions that they provide:

Many people call the Transfer Station a “dump”. As its name says, it is actually a transfer point for the material it receives. The “tipping floor”, onto which collection trucks empty their loads, is cleared out every night.

Please remember that there are no active landfills in Montgomery County!

--Angie Braun

Monday, April 08, 2013

Monday Map: Montgomery County, MD Municipal Solid Waste Collection Subdistricts

Today, we're introducing a new feature to "Talkin' Trash": the Monday Map.

Our weekly recycling, trash, and yard trim collection services, and our facility operations, are two very visible aspects of the work we do in the Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Services.  Other critical aspects, though, are less obvious.

Data maintenance and mapping are two of those lesser-known Division elements.  We -- that is, GIS Specialist (and whiz) Angie -- actively maintain a database of addresses, determining which addresses receive which services, and on which routes.

Angie will share more of her work and map products in future posts.  Read on for today's Monday Map...

--Susanne Wiggins

Montgomery County, MD Municipal Solid Waste Collection Subdistricts

View larger version of map (PDF)

Montgomery County provides both refuse collection and recycling collection services to some homes in the County and recycling collection service only to others. These two areas are known as Subdistrict A and Subdistrict B.

The County provides Yard Waste collection to both Subdistricts.

Montgomery County does not provide any collection services to houses within an incorporated municipality or in Leisure World. These homes are not considered within a County Subdistrict.

This map displays the County’s two Subdistricts and the areas where the County does not provide any collection service.

Our trash collection page has more information about determining whether or not your trash service is County- or privately-provided.  For communities interested in switching to County-provided service, we have detailed information about the process.

How much do you pay for your County-provided collections?  Visit our Solid Waste Charge page for fee details.

Do you have other questions about the recycling and trash collection services you receive in Montgomery County?  Depending on where you live, and the service about which you'd like more information, you may contact:

-- Angie Braun

Friday, April 05, 2013

How to make simple newspaper pots... and reuse!

newspaper pots with kale seedlings

It’s true -- some of my household’s newspaper never makes it to the curb for collection.

This Spring, our newspapers are serving double-duty when we reuse them as biodegradable plant pots.

To make the pots, you can use wooden paper pot makers. Or... you can simply make pots with the help of another reused item. Spice jars are the ideal size for forming pots for your your initial seed starts. So are tomato paste cans.

I begin my pot making with a page of newspaper.

sheet of newspaper

I crease the page lengthwise, and tear it in half.

sheet of newspaper, torn in half

I fold each page-half lengthwise again to form a strip.

newspaper strip

Then, I tear each strip in half.

newspaper strip, torn in half

Depending on the size of your pot “form”, and the desired height of your pots, you may need to adjust your fold. I like to have a folded edge as the top of my pots, as the fold makes the pot opening sturdier. The bottom of the pot can be a single layer; it will be strong enough. For these pots, I adjusted the fold to cover approximately one-third of my paper piece.

folded newspaper strip

Roll the paper around your form to create your pot. Leave enough paper at one end of your form to make the pot bottom.

newspaper rolled around spice jar

Tuck in the paper edge at the end to close off your pot and make the bottom.

pressing in bottom of newspaper roll

finished bottom of paper pot

Press your finished pot down against your working surface to flatten the bottom even more.

paper pot around spice jar

Slip the pot off of your form... and admire your work!

finished newspaper pot next to spice jar used as pot form

If your pot bottom unfolds a little, causing your pot to tip over, don’t worry.

newspaper pot tipped over on its side

In previous years, I have used tape to hold the bottom together. With these tiny pots, I have found that tape is unneeded. When the pot is filled with soil, it stands well on its own. As moisture from the soil soaks into the paper, the bottom will hold together even better.

This year, I’m pre-starting my seeds in napkins before putting them into soil. I put one to two seedlings into each pot.

In my fennel and chard department, there is even more reuse going on. This rusty muffin tin is long past its baking days. However, it’s the perfect holder for paper pots formed around pint-sized canning jars.

newspaper pots in muffin tin

Happy reusing and gardening!

-- Susanne Wiggins

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Some of our newspaper isn't recycled

Shh... here's an environmental secret about my household: Some of our recyclables never make it to the curb. Come back to our "Talkin' Trash" blog on Friday to see what happens to newspaper which escapes our paper recycling cart.

-- Susanne Wiggins