Containerizing Green Waste in Davis

When I first came to Davis in the mid-1990s, I was very surprised that in a such a bicycle friendly community, indeed a community that prided itself on being innovative in terms of bicycle lanes and the amount of bicycle traffic, would put their clippings on the side of streets to be picked up.
The problem of course should be rather obvious, dropping large amounts of clippings on the side of streets often means that debris ends up in the bike lanes. Particularly on streets where there is no street side parking, this can become rather dangerous for bicyclists. What ends up happening is that bikers will have to move into traffic to avoid the piles of branches or leaves. This causes a hazard for both the bicyclists and cars, especially when the bicyclist does not fully stop or look before they swerve to avoid the green waste clippings. There is a further danger that often as a bicyclist may not see some of the clippings or notice the obstruction until too late–particularly at dusk and dawn.

This has been a problem for quite sometime, but the city is finally looking to do something about it. Here is a full description of what is being called the Green Waste Containerization Pilot Program.

It is a temporary program that is scheduled to begin in January to assess whether requiring people to put their green waste into 96 gallon containers is a good idea.

Here are the listed features of the program courtesy of the City of Davis website:

  • Each parcel will receive one 96-gallon, wheeled green waste cart at no additional charge. If you find one 96-gallon cart is not enough, a 2nd one may be requested free of charge. For each additional cart over 2, there will be an additional $2.16 per month. Cart distribution is estimated to be late January or February 2008.
  • Cart-only pick up between January 16 and October 14. Carts with green waste in them must be put in the gutter by 7 a.m. on collection day. January through October excess green waste cannot be put loose in the street.
  • Loose in the street-only pick up from October 15 to January 15. During this heavy leaf drop season, all green waste should be placed in the street. No carts will be picked up during this 3 month period.
  • All green waste pick up in the pilot area will be on Tuesday. For some, this means a change in the green waste pick up day; however, this change allows for the most efficient use of the trucks and crews needed to pick up the carts using an automated system. (NOTE: this change affects green waste collection only; your trash and recycling collection day will still be on your regular scheduled day.)
  • Once a week street sweeping will continue.
  • The pilot test will run for a minimum of twelve (12) months, and using carts is mandatory so the pilot can operate efficiently and bike safety is improved along the street.
Now this pilot program does not affect the entire city. The pilot program covers only 12 streets, all of which appear to be main north-south thoroughfares. I notice there are some problems areas such as Arlington Blvd, that they do not cover in the pilot program.

Like most things in Davis, of course, there is controversy. The Natural Resources Commission met Monday Night, and by a 6-0-1 vote rejected the pilot program. There were a number of objections to it, ranging from the difficulty of placing waste in the containers, to the amount of clippings from the old growth trees in core areas of town, etc.

To be clear, the Natural Resources Commission examines this from the perspective of natural resources rather than bicycle safety.

I am not necessarily wedded to the idea that the clippings must be containerized. Although I know a number of communities who have done it for years without much complaint or problem. Frankly I think some of the objection is due to the effort involved in breaking down the branches and placing them into some sort of receptacle. Some people at the meeting on Monday suggested that this would simply discourage them from upkeep on the old growth trees in the core of town.

Some alternative ideas did emerge such as striping the bike lanes, so that instead of a single line, they are double lined and that all waste much be placed inside of the inner line. That sounds like an interesting compromise but it presents its own problems. First, a number of streets do not have street side parking, so you could not place anything inside a second line because the bike lane abuts the curb. Second, the city would have to enforce the rules in order to gain compliance. Without enforcement residents would simply allow their clippings to run into the bike lane when it was convenient. Finally, even limiting the space to the clippings inside the bike lane runs into problems because often the clippings end up taking up parking spaces and parking is rather limited especially within the core area. So bicycle safety while important is not the only factor here.

As I suggest, I am not wedded to the notion of containerizing green waste, I am however, convinced that some of the alternatives are not workable on all streets. I remain open to other solutions. I am also somewhat disappointed that the pilot program is needed, this has been a problem for a long time and it does not seem like it should be a problem. Most other communities have found other ways to dispose of their green waste without it becoming a needless bicycle hazard.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Environment

288 comments

  1. This plan would effectively drive out of business the small tree trimmers who do not have trucks or chippers to haul away the tree limbs. Homeowners who take care of their own trees(and often the city’s trees on their property as well) will have great difficulty continuing to care for our urban forest. The Tree Commission needs to weigh in on this as Davis trees will be negatively impacted. A system where one could call DWR and be put on a list for the day that tree limbs are removed from the street with the “claw”(homeowners free and perhaps a charge for commercial landscape/tree trimmer operations) would solve this problem. The elderly homeowners(who often are the most diligent in keeping their properties immaculate)will have difficulty getting the material into these high receptacles. I would like to see the history of the number of bike accidents/year directly related to bike lane obstruction. by green waste.

  2. This plan would effectively drive out of business the small tree trimmers who do not have trucks or chippers to haul away the tree limbs. Homeowners who take care of their own trees(and often the city’s trees on their property as well) will have great difficulty continuing to care for our urban forest. The Tree Commission needs to weigh in on this as Davis trees will be negatively impacted. A system where one could call DWR and be put on a list for the day that tree limbs are removed from the street with the “claw”(homeowners free and perhaps a charge for commercial landscape/tree trimmer operations) would solve this problem. The elderly homeowners(who often are the most diligent in keeping their properties immaculate)will have difficulty getting the material into these high receptacles. I would like to see the history of the number of bike accidents/year directly related to bike lane obstruction. by green waste.

  3. This plan would effectively drive out of business the small tree trimmers who do not have trucks or chippers to haul away the tree limbs. Homeowners who take care of their own trees(and often the city’s trees on their property as well) will have great difficulty continuing to care for our urban forest. The Tree Commission needs to weigh in on this as Davis trees will be negatively impacted. A system where one could call DWR and be put on a list for the day that tree limbs are removed from the street with the “claw”(homeowners free and perhaps a charge for commercial landscape/tree trimmer operations) would solve this problem. The elderly homeowners(who often are the most diligent in keeping their properties immaculate)will have difficulty getting the material into these high receptacles. I would like to see the history of the number of bike accidents/year directly related to bike lane obstruction. by green waste.

  4. This plan would effectively drive out of business the small tree trimmers who do not have trucks or chippers to haul away the tree limbs. Homeowners who take care of their own trees(and often the city’s trees on their property as well) will have great difficulty continuing to care for our urban forest. The Tree Commission needs to weigh in on this as Davis trees will be negatively impacted. A system where one could call DWR and be put on a list for the day that tree limbs are removed from the street with the “claw”(homeowners free and perhaps a charge for commercial landscape/tree trimmer operations) would solve this problem. The elderly homeowners(who often are the most diligent in keeping their properties immaculate)will have difficulty getting the material into these high receptacles. I would like to see the history of the number of bike accidents/year directly related to bike lane obstruction. by green waste.

  5. Containerizing green waste is ridiculous! This would work if you have a postage stamp apartment yard., or only potted plants. Then if you have that where can you store the 96 gallon container on top of the recycling and garbage cans…. We would need usually three or more containers and then would spend all day chopping the stuff into neat little bundles to fit into the containers. Compost is great for the yards that have enough green and dry waste to not have a rotting pile. This usually means older yards. Compost worked great in our older yard in a newer yard we got smelly rot that was too wet to compost without having a large enough place to have big piles and now using (or not using drums). Green piles on the streets are far less of a hazard than the cars parked and opening doors.

    BALANCE

  6. Containerizing green waste is ridiculous! This would work if you have a postage stamp apartment yard., or only potted plants. Then if you have that where can you store the 96 gallon container on top of the recycling and garbage cans…. We would need usually three or more containers and then would spend all day chopping the stuff into neat little bundles to fit into the containers. Compost is great for the yards that have enough green and dry waste to not have a rotting pile. This usually means older yards. Compost worked great in our older yard in a newer yard we got smelly rot that was too wet to compost without having a large enough place to have big piles and now using (or not using drums). Green piles on the streets are far less of a hazard than the cars parked and opening doors.

    BALANCE

  7. Containerizing green waste is ridiculous! This would work if you have a postage stamp apartment yard., or only potted plants. Then if you have that where can you store the 96 gallon container on top of the recycling and garbage cans…. We would need usually three or more containers and then would spend all day chopping the stuff into neat little bundles to fit into the containers. Compost is great for the yards that have enough green and dry waste to not have a rotting pile. This usually means older yards. Compost worked great in our older yard in a newer yard we got smelly rot that was too wet to compost without having a large enough place to have big piles and now using (or not using drums). Green piles on the streets are far less of a hazard than the cars parked and opening doors.

    BALANCE

  8. Containerizing green waste is ridiculous! This would work if you have a postage stamp apartment yard., or only potted plants. Then if you have that where can you store the 96 gallon container on top of the recycling and garbage cans…. We would need usually three or more containers and then would spend all day chopping the stuff into neat little bundles to fit into the containers. Compost is great for the yards that have enough green and dry waste to not have a rotting pile. This usually means older yards. Compost worked great in our older yard in a newer yard we got smelly rot that was too wet to compost without having a large enough place to have big piles and now using (or not using drums). Green piles on the streets are far less of a hazard than the cars parked and opening doors.

    BALANCE

  9. Why is this such a problem in the 2nd most educated town? Only in Davis does this become a big issue.

    People cannot put their clippings in a container? Pardon my expression, but “Gimme a break.”

    Observations:

    1. If people can trim their trees; can’t they clip the trimmings to fit into a large container?

    2. Not only is this a problem for cyclists, but for parking, people walking, it makes the neighborhood look bad, and when there is some wind it gets all over the place.

    3. This will not drive out small businesses that trim trees, as a matter of fact it may increase their business.

    4. I would like to see the city require this of all apartment buildings as well. Driving around town one can see that apartment owners/managers get lazy and trimmings sit for awhile and don’t get properly disposed of.

    This also happens with home owners too.

    It’s about time that the City of Davis does something about this. It’s simple and it is something that has been needed to be done for a long time. It should take place all over the city and should not have to be a pilot project.

    Are we going to have to do a survey on this soon?

    Good article Vanguard.