San Carlos Real Estate Agent, San Carlos Realtor Recology in San Carlos: 4 Months Later… | The White Oaks Blog
Living in San Carlos May 4, 2011

Recology in San Carlos: 4 Months Later…

by Chuck Gillooley

The Big Change.

It has been four months since the South Bayside Waste Management Authority (SBWMA) switched garbage and recycle service on the Peninsula from Allied Waste to Recology San Mateo County.  Recology kicked off the new year with quite a bit of fanfare — between the distribution of brand new Smart Carts, and the parade of shiny new collection trucks rolling out of the facility, it was a certainly a noticeable change.   Recology’s approach to a streamlined recycling curbside recycling program (no more sorting recyclables), and the automated pickup certainly seemed to be an appealing and progressive step above what Allied Waste was offering.

During the first few weeks of service there were certainly glitches, as one would expect from such a wholesale change.  Some streets didn’t get their carts delivered on the designated week, and there were missed deliveries on other streets as they worked out kinks in the logistics.  Even residents had adjustments to make with how to use the new carts.  But with four months under the belt, one would expect that things should be working smoothly.     But are they?

Growing Pains?

Over the past few weeks, I have asked friends and neighbors about their thoughts on the new service, and the answers I got back were surprisingly mixed.  While to many, garbage pick-up is a “don’t care”,  there were a surprising number of people who are not happy with the new service.   One of the biggest complaints I hear about is about what you see below:

This nice little mess is what I found on my sidewalk last week when I came home from work. About a third of what was in the bin somehow ended up on the sidewalk when the robotic arm picked up the bin. I’m not sure how this could have happened, because the bin certainly wasn’t anywhere near full.  But I guess there’s no policy in place at Recology about cleaning up after mishaps like these.

In another incident,  a White Oaks resident looked on in amazement as the robotic arm deftly plucked their recycle bin — along with the front license plate of her car and a chunk of the front bumper.   When they reported the incident to Recology customer service,  they were left with the feeling that it was Recology who was the one being inconvenienced by the accident.

Finally, I watched the City Council meeting last week as the future of the San Carlos Fire Department was being hotly debated, one resident patiently waited his turn for his two minutes at the podium — not to discuss the fire issue, but to voice his dissatisfaction with his garbage pickup.  So clearly, there are some bumps in the road with the new service.

And let’s not forget about the whole discussion of rate hikes for garbage service in the near future…

What Are Your Thoughts?

So, has the transition to Recology been a positive or negative experience for you?  Or is it a don’t-care?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below, and vote in poll at the top of the right side-bar.
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Recology in San Carlos: 4 Months Later..., 4.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
Comments 15
  • While I like the new bins and the weekly organics pick-up, there is still a lot of room for improvement. My biggest complaint is the amount of trash being blown around San Carlos on trash days. I usually have a half a dozen pieces of trash on my lawn, and also see it being blown down St. Francis. Either it is coming from the trucks as they dump trash and recycling into the top of the truck, or from trash that they spill in the process.

    I watched once as the truck incorrectly picked up my neighbor’s trash bin which then caused it to dump its entire contents onto the sidewalk (fortunately, the driver picked up the trash and put it back in the can – of course not before some blew away).

    I think Recology is still doing better than BWI, though, but it would be nice to work out the kinks.

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  • Broken bottles on an Eaton sidewalk last week after pick-up. How could the driver not notice?

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    • What makes you think the driver didn’t notice??

      We see a lot of rogue trash in our neighborhood, but not always occuring during the pick-up process…the bins are very poorly designed. They are top heavy and can easily tip over (either by stiff winds or wildlife in our neighborhood). If you are unfortunate to have a low (or no) curb in front of your house, it will almost always fall over and the driver will not pick it up.

      It happens to at least 1/3 of the cans on our street.

      They either need to retrofit the bins with some sort of device to prevent this from happening or replace them with a better design.

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  • I also have had the little messes left behind by Recology, but none as bad as Chuck’s. It drives me crazy how they are picking up until past noon on Fridays, which makes all neighborhood dogs go crazy 3 times that morning as their pickups are all spread out over hours all morning long.

    I also don’t think their new carts were designed too carefully. With last week’s wind, and the containers leaning at an angle against the curb, the carts kept blowing over and I had to pickup the escaped trash several times. Not a lot of fun.

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  • Re: your reference to the council meeting complaint–a missed Good Friday pickup for the entire neighborhood of Rosewood/Woodland. Guess the union drivers didn’t feel like working on a holiday and called in “sick”. Called the service line, and NO VOICEMAIL capability to report issues! Emailed note with no reply. Finally picked up late Monday afternoon, neighborhood a mess from cans overflowing with Easter trash and three extra days of racoon raids. How about a weekend hotline for such incidents?? And then the outrageous price increase within the first year of the contract…..what happened to the big cost savings from robotic trucks and single drivers?? Greedy unions up to their usual tricks, having bamboozled our local governments into signing contracts without appropriate caps on rate increases. Classic bait and switch. Recology BOOOO!

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  • I’m not happy with the service. Garbage gets dropped in the street. Before, pick-up was by 9AM, now they seem to come by for pick-up at any time they feel like – sometimes as late as 5PM.

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  • I don’t want to nitpick, but the photo clearly shows a lot of paper trash that should not have been put in the green bin. Instead, It belongs in the blue bin.

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    • Guido,

      Good point — I thought so too at first. But with the new recycle service, they now want all food scraps AND any paper product that have been soiled with food (paper towels, cups, napkins, pizza boxes, etc.. ) to go into the green bin. That’s one of the things that I do like about the new service (just so that the article isn’t totally negative toward Recology.)

      Thanks for your comment.

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  • It would also help if all of us recognize our ultimate responsibility and pick up the trash that is left behind in front of our homes. I can’t tell you how many of my neighbors think that it will just blow away or someone else will take care of it.

    It’s like an obstacle course when I walk our dogs.

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  • I hate that I have to lug a huge compost cart to the curb when it’s got 1 tiny bag of food waste in it. Why can’t we have smaller compost bins?!

    And I’d like the option for a smaller (and cheaper) trash can as well please.

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    • @anonymous — I too only have a little bit to compost. I called and they changed out my huge compost cart for a much smaller one. Apparently, while they automatically gave everyone the biggest compost cart, there are actually three sizes and you can have yours changed out

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  • Regarding glitches in the first few weeks, try first few months! I work for a property management company and I swear no exaggeration, I was on the phone with them every working day for 4 weeks straight. I had to call to remind them to pick up garbage/recycling (that had been over flowing for weeks) It took them for some properties between 3-4 weeks before the FIRST pick up of the year. Not only was I asking them to pick up garbage, but also had to tell them multiple times for the same properties where the bins were located because the drivers claimed to “not know where they were.” They had the same 3-4 excuses, which was extremely lame because I had answered their problems before, and was repeating myself constantly. It has gotten better since then, but still much more room to improve. I still have to call once in a while to remind them to pick up recycling from certain properties, etc.

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  • Unlike a conventional trash can, Recology has selected a system that does not permit the containers to be locked down. Raccoons knock them over spilling out trash. Recology refuses to take responsibility for collecting even the trash left in the knocked-over containers, let alone the trash that spilled. When you call them they give you a runaround about how it is too hazardous for the drivers to handle trash or knocked over bins, even with gloves! This is not a service-oriented company.

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  • and NOW, the city council has decided (at 10/17/11 meeting) our rates are going up again!

    Who is responsible for not protecting us against automatic rate increases??

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  • This system was designed for highly urban environments that have straight curbs and few animal issues. For communities at the urban – wilderness interface this program is a disaster. The combination of non curbed (or soft curbed) margins and garbage addicted animals makes for an ongoing litany of problems. Wait until the California Black Bear range expansion brings ursines into our neighborhoods, boy that will be fun!

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