Dumping dumpsters

May 30, 2014 By Steven R. Peck

If the City of Riverton follows through on its announced plan to eliminate trash pickup from alley "dumpsters" and require everyone to use curbside rollout containers, it will be the end of an era.

Riverton floated this idea a few years ago, but citizen sentiment against the change staved it off at the time. Factors beyond the city's control have brought the idea to the fore again, and this time there might not be any way around it.

Changes at the county level mean that the baling station at the east end of Riverton won't be open as many days per week as it used to be. That's where residential trash was taken after city trucks collected it. With fewer operating hours there, the city has less time to collect trash around town. It has to save time.

The city says an obvious way to do that is to quit driving (sometimes backing) down alleys to tip dumpsters. The trucks need to stick to city streets. The city also will cut back one day a week on trash collection to dovetail with the county schedule, meaning trash collectors will be under the gun during the remaining days. Time, always a key factor in a route-based job, becomes critical when it must be done over a shorter period.

There are costs on the other end, of course. A benefit of alleys is that unsightly elements of modern, urban civilization -- including trash containers -- are more or less hidden from public view. Having more trash containers on the curbs of residential streets rather than in the alleys behind them will serve to de-beautify the city to an extent.

Some cities offer more customized trash pickup for a higher fee, but charging residents more to preserve their alley trash pickup isn't much of an option in this case, because the issue appears to be time, not money. Even if some people were willing to pay more for it, the city is likely to say it can't work the alley routes into the work day when trash collection is being cut from five days to four. (The city still will handle business dumpsters, by the way.)

Finally, it comes down to an issue of majority rule. The city now says only about 20 percent of Riverton residents still get alley dumpster service (in the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that the editorial writer is one of them). Those two in 10 often have unconventional driveway setups that lend themselves more conveniently to dumpster service. But residents in the huge majority have learned to deal with the smaller rollout containers already. Many prefer them to the alleys, where dumpsters usually are shared with a neighbor whose habits don't mesh with theirs, and the dumpsters often are farther from the house than the rollout container is.

As always, we decry a system in which consumers are required to pay more but receive less. This marks a diminution of service for hundreds of Riverton residents who are losing their alley dumpster service through no fault of their own. The city could say the same, however, facing little choice but to bend its municipal service to the new framework instituted by the county in management of its trash facilities.

Public trash collection in Fremont County has been beset by financial problems for years now. It is unfortunate that the consequences must be visited upon individual consumers far from the problem's origin, but it now seems inevitable.

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