Providence garbage truck caught on video mixing trash and recycling

PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – Providence’s public works director said he will be held accountable by the private garbage company, which has a multi-million dollar contract in the city, after a homeowner picks up a garbage truck that has trashed and recycling on video mixes.

The video was captured on a surveillance camera at the home of Peter O’Hara, who shared it with Target 12 after saying years of complaints fell on deaf ears.

The November video shows a Waste Management-operated truck rumbling down Tandem Street in Providence. The truck’s robotic arm repeatedly tosses green trash cans and blue trash bins into its hold as it rolls around the neighborhood.

O’Hara said he has emailed the city several times over the past three years, claiming this has been a common post-holiday event when garbage collection is on a compressed schedule.

“I always get an email that says ‘We’ll take care of it,’ and then the next time I get trash pickup on vacation the same thing happens,” O’Hara said. “One wonders why we spend all this time doing what responsible Providence citizens should do when they just come and dump it all in the same truck.”

Cities and towns pay a per tonne fee for garbage dropped off at the RI Resource Recovery Corporation, a quasi public, in Johnston, but trucks carrying recycling are not charged. If a landfill inspection reveals that a recycling truck has rubbish mixed in with it, the community must pay the per tonne fee and will be fined $ 250.

A city spokesman confirmed that the truck shown on the video had been turned down at the landfill and fined for mixing rubbish.

A review of declined cargoes by Providence trucks at the landfill shows taxpayers paid a little over $ 1 million in fines and fees for 10,382 tons of declined cargoes in 2020. (The garbage per tonne fee increased from $ 67 in 2019 to $ 80 in 2020.)

The city has signed a $ 6.7 million annual contract with Waste Management for garbage collection and recycling. Garrett Trierweiler, a waste management spokesman, said the company never instructed its employees to mix garbage.

“We take this complaint very seriously and have checked the relevant guidelines and procedures with our employees,” said Trierweiler in an email. “We have carried out a review of this situation with our employees and strengthened our policies and procedures with regard to the collection of waste and recyclable materials. Waste Management will continue our collaboration with the City of Providence to provide exceptional waste collection and recycling services. “

Leo Perrotta, director of Providence’s public works department, said waste management officials told the city this was a one-time mistake.

“Do I think so? I’m not sure I believe it, but that’s the explanation we’ve been given, ”said Perrotta. “We will hold them responsible and we will discuss with them whether there will be fines to be paid in the future. But it’s something we can’t tolerate because it sends the wrong message. “

The video is particularly offensive to O’Hara, as city property owners can be fined for failing to separate trash from recycling. DPW inspectors regularly check the neighborhoods and check the recycling bins left out for collection. If trash is found in a blue trash, a warning will be displayed for the first offense, a $ 50 fine for the second, $ 100 for a third, and the penalty may increase.

Landlords will be punished if their tenants are guilty of the violation.

“They penalize you if you dispose of the recyclable materials with your trash. They also penalize you if you have things in your trash that are not really recyclable,” said O’Hara. “But then they just come and throw everything on the same truck.”

In fiscal 2020-21, Providence real estate owners received more than 3,300 citations with fines totaling $ 160,000. A spokesman said inspections slowed in the spring during the first wave of the pandemic.

“I would be just as upset about it as anyone, and so would we,” said Perrotta. “It is not right and we will hold them accountable just as we hold the resident accountable.”

Tim White ([email protected]) is the senior editor and chief investigative reporter for Target 12 at 12 News and the moderator for Newsmakers. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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