Guest opinion: Proposed garbage collection contract raises cart-size questions


By Richard Merk

While I believe that, over all, Green Waste Recovery has done a good job trying to meet the needs of SB 1383 – which is forcing it to change to a three-stream system (when its two-stream system is working near perfectly), there are some serious issues I have with the new proposal/contract which our residents need to consider. These issues have to do with the proposed "cart" sizes.

First: When we negotiated the first contract with GWR (many years ago) the company recommended against the use of 20-gallon carts due to their inherent tendency to tip over. Once filled, they are very top-heavy due to the poor, false-bottom design, with the wheels close together and a relatively small base upon which to rest. The likely result will be spilled garbage on our streets and in our yards in almost any space where they are left for pick-up if there is any slope to the ground surface.

Also, once animals such as raccoons discover their contents, tipping will occur anywhere. Since the lids do not latch in any way, tip-overs will likely be a common and messy affair for all of us who require only the 20-gallon service.

Second: The "one size only" requirement for recycling carts (blue, 96-gallon carts) is wasteful for most residents and problematic for many – especially the elderly and/or families with limited space to store such large carts. We have a 32-gallon cart for recyclables which we rarely fill. Not only do we not need a 96-gallon cart for our recyclables, we don't want one so large. They are hard to move around, overly bulky and difficult to store.

The town's consultant, SVM, described an "inventory issue" around providing other size carts for recycling, but this is only an issue of proper ordering and acquisition. It's a pretty poor and flimsy excuse for something that will affect residents for years to come.

If the current proposal is accepted, I predict that a delayed backlash from many residents will occur well after the contract is signed and sealed. Only when residents have started using these new carts and are discovering the problems with their limitations will they fully understand what their Town Council has done "for" them.

Portola Valley residents who share these concerns should submit a written protest to the Town Council, which must identify the property owner (or tenant), identify their property (address or parcel number) and include a signature (e-signatures must be through a platform approved by the state) before the Nov. 13 council meeting.

Longtime Portola Valley resident Richard Merk is a past mayor, council member and planning commissioner.

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2 people like this
Posted by awatkins
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Nov 12, 2019 at 1:58 pm

Richard — you are quite presumptuously projecting your own wants and needs on the rest of us. The vast majority of accounts in Woodside use 96-gallon carts, and I easily fill mine every week.

I of course don’t object to your petitioning for an additional smaller cart choice, but don’t ask for this at the expense of the majority. It’s a lot worse to have a cart that’s too small than one that is too big. In the latter case the penalty is pushing around a couple more pounds of plastic. Hardly an issue worth penalizing the rest of us.

I think a better question to ask about the current proposal is why we are paying 25% more than Redwood City, why the drive-on rates are absurdly high ($1,000+/hr), why no competitive bids are being sought. The whole thing reeks of laziness and/or incompetence and/ or payola. At a minimum the analysis and negotiations by the consultant needs to be published so we citizens can see how we arrived at such ridiculous-looking rate increases. We also need some proof that there is no conflict of interest between the consultant and Greenwaste. Right now the arrangement looks nothing like arms-length.

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