La Plata looks to address ongoing recycling problems
Recycling pick-up has recently been a major issue in the Town of La Plata, and the town council is now taking major steps to find a resolution to relieve frustrated residents.
At the council’s July 12 meeting, members discussed ways to address issues with the town’s current recycling company’s prolonged pick-up time and inadequate customer service.
Robert F. Stahl, director of public works, said the town has received great customer service feedback about trash pick-up but now they are moving their focus on improving the recycling pick-up. Waste Management Inc. currently picks up the town’s recyclables and has been doing so for well over a decade.
“The customer service has been terrible and just a complete nightmare all of the time,” Stahl said. “We’ve had numerous meetings and tried to straighten it out and I think everyone is frustrated with the situation. We just can’t allow our customer service to be poor and we just can’t deal with the same problem every single week. We can’t allow it to keep going on. We have to address it and make some changes.”
Stahl said the customer service with Waste Management Inc. has dwindled over time. At one point, the company handled recycling pick-up for the county, Indian Head and La Plata, but several years ago the county and Indian Head switched to different recycling services.
“If the town council considers a new contract, the expectation would be that it would save the town money,” said Town Manager Daniel Mears. “In that case, the town council could consider a reduction in the recycling fee if the savings is substantive. There are no costs to end the town’s current contract. However, there is a 90-day notice requirement if the town decides to do so.”
Councilman Lynn D. Gilroy said he’s had numerous complaints from residents about their recycling being out all day and never picked up, as well as trash being left on the ground in front of their homes. Recycling pick-up in La Plata is typically on Wednesday but residents have had their recycling picked up days later, even as late as Saturday.
Councilman Keith Back has also experienced the company falling short of providing ontime recycling services in his own neighborhood in La Plata.
“The fact that there hasn’t been a single pick-up on time in months is disappointing,” Back said. “Our recycling has been picked up on Thursday and if trash falls off the truck or falls out of the bin, the recycle man doesn’t care. Two weeks ago, the truck was dropping glass as it drove away and there was a pile of glass in front of my house and in front of my neighbor’s mailbox.”
When contacted by the Maryland Independent for comment, Lisa Kardell, director of public affairs with Waste Management Inc., issued a statement on the company’s behalf.
“Waste Management apologizes for the recent service interruptions,” Kardell wrote in an email to the Independent. “We are committed to providing superior service to our customers. We have reviewed our routing to accommodate the growth in Southern Maryland and are planning to add an additional truck to our routes to assist with servicing our customers.”
The town staff spoke with the Town of Indian Head, which previously used Waste Management Inc. but procured a contract with a new recycling company about two years ago. The town staff reviewed that contract and viewed its terms prior to discussion with the council on Tuesday.
“Both sides are fully aware of what the issues are,” Stahl said. “We met with Waste Management Inc. in May and said either straighten this out or else and they promised us better results. We hoped they would straighten up a little bit but since the day we met with them, they have not finished attaining La Plata’s recycling in the same day. The council has been supportive of doing the right thing and in this case they are focused on better customer service.”
Mears said the goal of changing recycling contractors would not require the town to change its recycling containers. However, a change of contractor may require recycling pickup on a different day.
“All American Recycling already has a contract with Indian Head so we’re hoping to piggyback on Indian Head’s contract and use their pricing,” Stahl said.
The council has not made any final decisions yet. A contract will be brought before them at the next town council meeting for consideration on the matter, which could be authorized by resolution.