Some Whitehall residents trash new garbage bins as being too big
Christie Milano was angry when a 95-gallon garbage can showed up at her home in Whitehall Borough in early February.
At 5 feet 2 inches tall, Milano, 58, had to pull the container up the 10 steps from the curb to the front of her home each week for storage. There’s nowhere else to put it. Her garage and driveway are off the rear of her home.
“It looks terrible,” Milano said. “It’s just a bad look. It makes the borough look junky.”
Whitehall Borough is saving $1 million over the next five years by switching to automated trash collection.
As part of the change, nearly every residential property in the borough was given a 95-gallon trash container, which allow for a truck with an arm on its side, controlled by the driver, to pick up the container on its own and dump it into the truck without the driver ever leaving the vehicle.
But for some residents, bigger is not better.
Almost immediately after distributing the new containers, borough leaders began receiving calls from residents with concerns about their size, borough Manager James Leventry said.
“I think they can be a little overwhelming at first,” said Waste Management spokesperson Erika Deyarmin-Young. “They are big.”
The benefit of switching to automated trash collection is twofold for Waste Management, Deyarmin-Young said.
“It helps with our efficiency, and it helps with our safety, as well,” she said, noting collection is safer for drivers as they don’t need to exit the truck, and it allows them to move through routes quicker.
The change in Whitehall came as part of a five-year solid waste and recycling contract entered with Waste Management that started Jan. 1.
Whitehall leaders made the switch because of the cost savings, Leventry said. The total cost for waste collection in Whitehall was not readily available.
“It was strictly a financial decision,” he said. “You’re looking at, for us, $1 million. That’s 1 mill in taxes. Council didn’t have a choice but to go automated.”
Nineteen of the 22 municipalities in the South Hills Area Council of Governments participated in a joint bid for solid waste and recycling, including Whitehall.
The bid provided an option for municipalities to switch to automated collection, said Lou Gorski, executive director of SHACOG.
“Each community has to consider its options,” he said.
Bethel Park, Scott, Peters, Upper St. Clair and Findlay all elected to go with automated trash collection for the contract, Deyarmin-Young said. Several of the municipalities previously had automated collection for recycling.
Leventry said the push to make the switch came from Waste Management. Whitehall Borough purchased uniform containers needed for automated recycling for its residential properties. The borough will pay off the containers over the next five years.
In early February, roughly 5,400 95-gallon containers were delivered to homes. Residents living in the Steeplechase community received 35-gallon containers, as there is not much room to store larger containers at their homes and many of the residents are senior citizens. Shadowlawn Drive is exempt from the switch, because it didn’t work logistically.
The smaller containers also were delivered to about 50 people throughout the borough who contacted leaders and requested them.
They included Milano, a lifelong Whitehall resident, who received her smaller garbage container the second week in April.
Her neighbor, Richard Williams, 74, who has lived in Whitehall for 28 years, hides his 35-gallon container behind hedges in front of his home so no one can see it from the road. But he stares at the back of it from his home every day.
“We had no say in this,” he said. “I would have rather they up the taxes and leave us alone.”
While residents have the option to switch from the 95-gallon containers to either 35- or 65-gallon bins, Leventry warns they only have one free swap before they must pay themselves to switch out the containers.
“After one switch out, residents will be charged $10 for every other switch out,” Deyarmin-Young said.
Some people do like the new cans, both Leventry and Deyarmin-Young said. They allow for all garbage to go in one container, and wheels make them easy to push to the curb.