December 24, 2009


Residents say new city trash bags hold less

Complaints about smaller volume, higher price prompt aldermen to seek a solution


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
City officials say new trash bags, right, are stronger than the old bags, left. But residents have complained they cannot put as much trash in them. The price of the new bags increased 50 cents per bag.

Staff Reporter

City residents have been expressing frustration that the city’s new blue trash bags do not have as much space to hold trash as the previous bags.
Meanwhile, city officials are thinking of ways to address these concerns in the short term and long term.
In many cases, the concerns over the size of the bags are intertwined with the fact that they are more expensive.
The price residents pay for the large blue bags increased Sept. 3 from $2.50 to $3, said Alderman Clay Benedict (D-2nd Ward). The price of the smaller blue bags increased from $1.50 to $2.
City residents who want their trash collected by the city’s trash service purchase the blue bags and put them by the street on their respective trash days. The city’s revenue from selling the bags pays for the cost of Casella Waste Service, the city’s hauler, to collect trash and take it to the county landfill.
Several residents told the city Common Council they are dissatisfied with the bags, during a Dec. 15 meeting.
A small sample of people in and outside the city post office on Main Street Tuesday included one resident who is dissatisfied with the new bags, one who did not mind the change and one who had hardly noticed the change.
The city ordered a year’s supply of its new blue bags from Auburn-based Johnson Paper in February, but did not begin selling them until the supply of old bags was expended about a month ago.
The city’s new bags are sealed at the bottom with what is called a “star seal.” The bags previously used were sealed on the sides.
Both types of bags are the same size and dimension, but the bags with the star seal are gathered, or bunched up, at the bottom, which decreases the amount of space in the bottom corners of the bags, said city Department of Public Works Supervisor Chris Bistocchi.
Bistocchi said he sent out specifications for bags with star seals because they can hold more weight without ripping, do not tend to rip when snapped open, and are less expensive for the city to order than the side-sealed bags.
“The volume is reduced because it is now gathered at the bottom and sealed, but it will hold more weight,” he said.
Bistocchi said the new bags will hold up to 50 pounds. The side-sealed bags would start to rip on the sides when about 40 pounds was put into them, Bistocchi said.
“The side-seals are very shoddily made and I wasn’t happy with the way they were ripping,” he said.
Ripped bags resulted in trash in front of lawns and crows feeding on the trash, he said.
Benedict said numerous city residents have told him they can only fit two kitchen bags in the new blue bags and could fit three in the old bags.
“I feel that the council will be responsive to that and I think they can afford to do that because people will be buying more bags to make up for the price difference,” said Benedict, whose term expires Dec. 31.
The council will also have to think about what type of bags to order for next year, he said.
“We’re going to have to deal with it this year, see how it goes and solicit community feedback,” said Alderman Brian Tobin (D-4th Ward).
Tobin said reducing the price of the bags seems like a good idea, but that city officials will need to calculate the impact and make sure the trash system could still pay for itself after the price reduction.
Before the side-sealed bags the city used blue bags sealed at the bottom with a gusset seal, which does not gather the bottom of the bag. Bistocchi said the bags with gusset seals were too expensive –– extra plastic is used to make the seal –– and the city began losing money through the blue bag system when they were used.
Bistocchi said the city has tried every type of bag and each one has had drawbacks.
“This is ridiculous. To buy a whole year’s worth of bags and have them so crummy that you can’t put anything in them is ridiculous,” Anne Doyle, a Lincoln Avenue resident, told the Common Council Dec. 15.
“The price keeps going up and the amount it takes keeps going down,” said city resident Connie Sorrells.
City resident Deborah Buchanan said she thinks the new bags hold 30 percent less trash than the old bags, and said she is considering hiring another local trash service.
Marc Pace, a Cortland resident and landlord, said inside the post office Tuesday that he thinks the new bags hold about 25 percent less trash than the old bags. Pace said he is considering hiring a private trash service for his tenants, who put their own trash out using the blue bags. It would cost him more money, but save money for his tenants, he said.
Homer resident Eline Haukenes, who owns a rental property in Homer where she takes her trash, said she can fit less trash in her bags but does not mind it.
“I believe in recycling and it helps me think about the trash I generate, so for that reason it’s OK,” Haukenes said.


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