Monday, June 04, 2012

Reverse Recycling Blues

My English Bulldog, Mugsy, not only warns me whenever someone comes to the door but also when the dryer or washer has finished and when my recycling or garbage carts are ready to be retrieved and stowed after pick up.

But the other day he didn’t warn me that my garbage cart had lost both wheels and the axel during the last pick up.

Broken Garbage Cart
I tried but was unable to fix the cart myself, so I called Durham One Call for a replacement and suggested that they bring me a smaller size cart because I generate very little garbage and never coming close to filling the large cart given the effectiveness now of the large roll-out recycling carts.

I was surprised to learn that the company contracted to repair carts or drop off a replacement will only do so on the NEXT week’s pick up day regardless of when the damage is reported, so this would necessitate hauling the broken cart up the driveway, stowing it for a week and then dragging it back out to the curb a week later.

Or it could just junk up the bottom of the drive and the street for a week, no doubt irking my neighbors and violating city policy.

“This doesn’t make sense,” I told them on the phone, so I was given another number to call from which I was transferred to a person in the area involved with carts who said the replacement could be moved up a few days, however I could not have a smaller cart because they are only provided to town homes and the infirm.

Again, I muttered that this didn’t make sense because I knew the City was moving big into “reverse recycling” which has the recycling containers larger than the garbage containers, both in offices and curbside, so that folks will recycle even more and steer less and less toward landfills.

“Nope,” I was told.  If they gave me the smaller size, then all of my neighbors would want one and there wouldn’t be enough.  “But that sounds like the goal,” I muttered, adding that in transition the smaller containers could be phased in only as replacements for damaged carts to smooth out the expenses involved.

To no avail I rattled off a few other alternatives to manage inventory of the smaller carts such as limiting them to single person households or giving the option of paying a fee.

In a more terse tone, I was told I could attend a PAC meeting with City Council and complain.  When I responded that this sounded more like a management issue than a governance issue, I could be connected to “someone in management” then.

I explained that I knew it wasn’t her fault and asked if she would pass along the suggestion to revisit the policy  Frustrating as it might be, the response was that this particular person’s job only included arranging for repair or drop off and apparently not passing along suggestions for improving the process.

I chose not to pursue either suggested channel of complaint but others on my street have.  I hoped instead that upon further reflection or possibly a constructive confrontation, the staff involved would think it through on their own.

But this is a microcosm of why many citizens resent government.  It isn’t that they don’t need or appreciate the services provided.  It is just that so often the way those services are delivered seems so inflexible or simply doesn’t make any sense.

I know how many dedicated, talented and hard working people there are at every level of government and reading about such an isolated instance will burn them up.  Hopefully instead they are asserting themselves internally through the principles of crucial confrontation.

The problem is far from isolated and the changes that need to be made must originate internally and as much bottom-up as top-down.  Waiting for or encouraging electoral pressure is far too blunt a way to initiate meaningful change and alignment within organizational culture.

I’m happy to report that a slightly used but smaller garbage cart arrived on Friday!  Mugs and I are now official reverse recyclers.

4 comments:

Donald Long said...

Mr. Bowman,
You may well be aware that we tape our incoming calls and I listened to yours. I'm in agreement with you that it could have been handled much better. We are using the call to educate our customer service staff on the do's and don'ts of responding to calls. Thank you very much for your constructive criticism and I apologize for the response you were given. Just to correct one thing, we do not have a reverse recycling program and the reason we restrict the use of the 35 gallon carts is because if you are on an automated route our trucks can't lift those smaller carts.

Donald M. Long, Director
Department of Solid Waste Management, City of Durham

Donald Long said...

Mr. Bowman,
You may well be aware that we tape our incoming calls and I listened to yours. I'm in agreement with you that it could have been handled much better. We are using the call to educate our customer service staff on the do's and don'ts of responding to calls. Thank you very much for your constructive criticism and I apologize for the response you were given. Just to correct one thing, we do not have a reverse recycling program and the reason we restrict the use of the 35 gallon carts is because if you are on an automated route our trucks can't lift those smaller carts.

Donald M. Long, Director
Department of Solid Waste Management, City of Durham

Kenneth Chang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kenneth Chang said...

It's good to see that people are more inclined to recycling and proper waste management. Not only on residential areas but also to large construction sites and more importantly medical waste. It's good to see that companies that doperth bin hireis getting some action in cleaning up the streets, I am very pleased that on a windy day a construction site does not blow dust in my face when i ride my scooter past it. I apologize for the deleted comment, my grammar was all over the place.