A New Way to Make Money for the City?

by on April 16, 2011 · 30 comments

in Economy, Ocean Beach, Popular, San Diego, The Widder Curry

All photos by the Widder Curry and her dog Buddy.

Monday, better known as “trash day” in Ocean Beach, is coming up soon. What a beautiful array of blacks, greens and blues await us on each and every street.

Oh…what’s this? What are all these trash barrels doing on their sides? And why are the tops cracked on so many of them? And…why is the trash on the sidewalk and street instead of in the trash trucks? Is this the way the City can make money?

“How is that, you ask?” Easy. Who breaks the barrel? The home or apartment owner? No way! It is the driver of the trash truck that slam dunks your barrel on the street after it has been emptied.

I saw the funniest thing today while watching the trash being dumped into the truck. The “hands” slipped and the trash went flying all over the street. I couldn’t hear the driver, but you and I both know what he was saying. He got out of his truck and began to put the trash back into the barrel. Maybe he got half of it – maybe. The wind was blowing the trash all over the street; and to make matters worse, the lid of the container cracked in half.

Have you ever called the city and asked to have your container replaced? You haven’t? You are in for a surprise. They charge you for the replacement. The original one that they broke is useless and they won’t pick up any container that is not the “regulated” one. And…they are not cheap – around $100, give or take. It is cheaper if you go and pick it up – yeah, try putting one of the barrels in your car – but if it is delivered forget the tank of gas you were going to put in the car. (The replacement barrel and a tank of gas roughly cost the same thing nowadays.)

To make matters worse – when Buddy and I took our walk today, down Sunset Cliffs and around Devonshire, we counted 17 barrels that were either on their side; trash strewn around the street; lids cracked, etc. (Yes, Buddy is a very smart dog and he counted along with me!)

A problem for me is that with two torn rotator cuffs and 4 trigger fingers, there is no way that I can pick up the overturned barrel and right it so that it can be brought back into the yard. So…there it sits – until someone asks if I could use some help in righting it. . . . (Is that a “right” or a “wrong?”) When I left the house my trash had not yet been picked up. It was 3:15pm. I dreaded turning the corner onto my street because I feared it would be on its side. But the trash gods were with me that day. The container easily was wheeled back to its stately place in the back yard.

The Mayor wants us to start paying for trash pickup? What an oxymoron that is. (The fee – not the Mayor). Is that “trash pickup” from the street after the truck has been there? Come on guys. Treat our trash with a little more respect!

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar PEGGY April 16, 2011 at 11:37 am

No kidding I have found mine under the wheels of motor home , down the alley about 5 houses away. On MLK Day we were here when trash man came. He demolished my can we stopped his truck and talked to driver & he said “it’s not his fault”. “It was the claws on the truck that did it” One thing for sure Monday is never boring!!!


avatar judi April 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm

It just doesn’t make sense – (or “cents” if you will.) If it is the “claw” then something should be done about that. But to find it not in front of your house – where you left it – cannot be blamed on the “claw.) Amazing to find out how progressive San Diego is – a truck that leaves the trash barrels where it wants to – and it’s not the driver’s fault.


avatar dave rice April 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I feel your pain, Judy – as often as not I’ll spend a few minutes after trash day picking up a handful of junk 10 or 15 feet in any direction from where I left my cans. And at least once a month either the trash guy or recycling guy manages to ‘miss’ one or more cans, since I have to put them on either side of the driveway at my apartment complex. It’s really a killer when the recycling guy skips us, given that he only comes around every other week to begin with – a month is way too long to wait to recycle when I share the bin with the neighbors that live in the other half of the front building.


avatar judi April 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I think that over the months, Dave, with the talk of having a private company taking over the trash, that the drivers are fearful of losing their jobs. Rather than “show” us what a great job they are doing – and are capable of doing – they are using the fear as a driving force rather than a “pride” of doing good work. When my trash barrels are skipped, I call the city. Usually they will send someone out the next day. But to see so many barrels “littering” the streets; to see so much trash on the street; and to see so many barrels cracked or busted – makes me want tell the City that the job they are doing is a poor one and before they farm out the contract to someone else, they had better shape up their own departments. I forgot which mayor it was – Mo? – that actually rode the trash trucks one day.


avatar dave rice April 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm

I have occasion to call for a missed or partial pickup at least once a month, but it’s gotten to the point where I rarely bother anymore.

And this whole ‘free trash’ thing is new to me anyway – at my first two houses in El Cajon I paid like $40 a month to Waste Management, but they let me recycle every week and gave me extra blue and green cans free – the grey ones (trash, black cans here) were like an extra $8 a month if I wanted more than one.


avatar Patty Jones April 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Part of the problem with the broken cans is the material they are made from. Almost all plastics get brittle when they sit in the sun and I know there are defects in the composition of the plastic in some of the cans which only compounds the problem.

Peggy, when the driver told you that it was the arm that broke the can he was most likely telling you the truth. The arm on the truck is designed to pick up certain types of cans, it opens and closes to a preset size. The driver positions the arms around the can and hits the button to close them. If the can is brittle or overloaded it can break when it is lifted.

Another issue is that a lot of people don’t leave enough space between their cans for the driver to be able to maneuver the arm properly between them, especially in neighborhoods where the houses are so closely packed together.

I’m not trying to make excuses, there are a lot of problems and $100 is an outrageous amount of money to pay for a garbage can.


avatar judi April 16, 2011 at 5:38 pm

I agree with you up to an extent Patty. Yes, the plastic does get brittle and we have had these barrels for a long time. Ten years, maybe? Longer. So what is the life expectancy of these barrels that the City dumped on us? And…if the life expectancy is 10-15 years and it falls apart, who should be responsible for replacing them? Me? I think not. I have a lot of trash barrels I used BEFORE I was forced to use the ones that I am currently using. Soon ALL of the barrels will be cracked or not able to be used. What then? Since we are all using the same size can – they won’t pick up any that are not the regulation size, perhaps the driver did not open up the claws all the way. All the barrels are the same size here – so that shouldn’t be a problem. (I take that back – some of my neighbors have smaller black containers than I do. They aren’t as “trashy” as I am. My point is that in the very near future all of the barrels will need to be replaced. Multiply the number of barrels in mandated use by the city times $100 – that is a hell of a lot of money!


avatar Joan April 16, 2011 at 6:19 pm

This isn’t exactly profit to the City. They have to buy the trash barrels and process the paperwork, etc. I suspect $100 just breaks them even. I picked up a teeny thin one for yard waste and it was about $33-40 a year or so ago. They are made of petroleum products, better expect the price to be going up now. You’d have more reason to complain about the trash not being done nicely if you had paid for it in the meantime. You don’t pay, you have no reason to complain. Another good reason to have a fee for trash pickup: you would be able to reasonably expect certain standards from the trash people.


avatar judi April 16, 2011 at 6:50 pm

What do you mean “I don’t pay.” I am paying for the trash pick-up from my property taxes yearly. Even though it is not a “line-item” I am still paying. And..just because I am not paying a monthly fee means that I cannot complain. I am to accept poor service because I am not sending in a monthly check. You have to be kidding. I expect high standards from all people I deal with, be in a trash pick up employee – who is being paid with my money – to the car dealer to the doctor treating me. Money does not equate with poor service.


avatar JEC April 17, 2011 at 11:53 am

The Government code limits fees to cost recovery – or else it’s considered a tax and requires voter approval. The trick – what counts as cost recovery?


avatar dave rice April 16, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Leaving room is another problem – if I’m lucky I’ll have a couple feet of curb on either side of my complex parking lot to stick four cans out – they’re always jammed together and right against parked cars. There’s just no other choice.

And my cans aren’t all the same – I’ve got two small trash cans, a small recycling can, and a large recycling can comparable to the ones I got when I had to pay for them out in unincorporated SD county.


avatar Zach on the side April 16, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Well, an expectation of high standards from all those in your path, right or wrong, is sure to bring you misery. The trash problem, metaphorically, could refer to the nature of the human beast. Problems with something as simple as trash collection (or is it simple?) reveals that the world’s not exactly a garden party. Meanwhile, we should all make less trash and, hey, as none of us are perfect we all need a super-sized measure of patience with the broken lids of life.


avatar dave rice April 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Interesting thought, Zach – and since I haven’t seen you around before, welcome!


avatar Zach on the side April 18, 2011 at 2:36 am

Thanks, Dave. I really am “on the side.”


avatar Abby April 17, 2011 at 12:55 am

My can went missing for 2 weeks and I found it a block away.


avatar OB Mercy April 17, 2011 at 9:14 am

I wish the city would read all these posts. It is obviously a very prevalent situation. My can’s lid is also busted and they did not pick up my trash last Monday. I think it was too close to a car that was parked in the red on the side of my driveway.


avatar ss April 17, 2011 at 11:01 am

trash is certainly an on going concern in SD. But for the most part it is free. The 1st can was free also. Will it be different with the cans if the service is privatized? We will probably pay a monthly bill to a provide the service, will they supply the cans?
Trash pick up is certainly a needed service in an urban environment. If you opt out what will happen to your trash? If everyone opts out how high will the trash pile up before it becomes a major health hazard?
Being a bit of a socialist I kind of think this function should fall on the government and be paid for through taxes then the the removal of trash is for the good of the citizens and society, that way we all have a better environment and the cost is shared equally at least in theory.
One thing is for sure trash pick up and disposal is not free.


avatar dave rice April 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Having experience dealing with privatized trash for about 6 years, I can answer some of these questions:

The trash company (there’s usually one ‘preferred’ vendor for an area – either Edco or Waste Management) charges you about $40 a month. For that, you get free rental on one large trash can, one or two large recycling cans, and I think up to three large yard waste bins. If you want extra trash cans, they cost like $7-8/month each to rent. The trash company owns the cans, so if yours is trashed they replace it for you. You can also call up to twice a year for ‘bulk item’ pickup if you’re tossing an old couch, some patio furniture, or something similar – you get it out to the curb and as long as two guys can heave it into a truck (a very subjective matter), you don’t have to pay the dump fees.

If you don’t pay, the trash company (or the city) can levy a tax lien on your property – so in effect you have no option but to purchase the service from the private sector, much like Obamacare.


avatar Citizen Cane April 17, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Legal question….are you allowed to put out a “free box” sort of recycling bin? One that the city doesn’t empty, but is emptied by foraging recyclers.


avatar thinking out loud April 17, 2011 at 7:15 pm

trash trash trash sounds like the people running the city……


avatar Rickey April 19, 2011 at 10:40 am

I put my trash in a bag and tie it up put it in the can then Joe homeless comes by and tears all the bags to see if there is a can or bottle in it.Then the garbage truck comes by picks it up and the wind blows all the loose garbage that was once tightly secured in the bag all over the place. Plus all the money that the city loses because of the cans and bottles that Joe homeless steals out of the recycling bin and knocks it over when he is done? Also the city should charge apt complexes with over 3 units for garbage pick up.


avatar Rickey April 19, 2011 at 10:45 am

All these huge apt complexes stack all there cans on the street like soldiers taking away parking spots plus the tentant that takes the cans out dont care about the trash that is over flowed from the can and just wheels it to the curb so it can be rifled thru by any passer by.
Big complexs should have to call Edco or the city should charge them.
Is there a no garbage picking law?


avatar Anono Mouse April 19, 2011 at 3:44 pm

America is the most Trash producing nation on this planet.
I remember in the early 1990s’ when the mayor of LA had declared and emergency
because the lanfills were full.
He put many huge recycling containers placed every 3 blocks in LA and people who did not recycle were ticketed by the police and could also be arrested depending on the severity of their non-compiance on this issue.

Last spring, I went to Washington D.C. and volunteered without anyone asking me and went around picking up all of the trash that people threw on the ground.
I could not find a single recycling station in Washington D.C..
They had an Immigration reform rally with a couple hundred thousand people there and I was saddened to see so many American flags in the trash. I picked up many small American flags on little wooden sticks off of the ground and out of the trash.
I still have those flags.
I picked up trash around the Arlington West display and picked up a little around the Veterans For Peace area because I helped set up the Arlington West display that year on the Washington Mall.
I wish they had a big push for recycling in Washington D.C. in an effort to set and example for the rest of the nation, the amount of trash that I saw on the Washington Mall areas where activists were was truly disgusting.
I am from St. Louis and we have our problems with trash here also.
In Old Town St. Charles there are many recycling cans, at least one on every block in an effort to keep the historic area clean and green.
Where I live we have recycling bins that have small openings in the top to accept some types of recyclable plastic, paper, cardboard, aluminum and glass.
The top is designed with a lock so people cannot get into it.
This keeps people from digging in the trash and making a mess all over looking for cans and bottles.
We try to keep our streets clean.
I lived in California when I was younger.
I just attended an Earth Day Festival here in St. Louis.
It was great!
They had 2 large stages with some good bands and many different vendors of alternative energy needs.
They have people selling beautiful art work, clothing and useful things that were all made from recycled and reclaimed things that commonly end up in landfills.
Speaking of Earth Day I read about a lawn mower engine that runs off of a biofuel made from grass clippings and yard waste.
I also read about a trash truck in LA that has a engine that runs on a biofuel that is made from food scraps.
I was saddened at the amount of air pollution in LA and the beaches that were closed or said that you can catch a virus from all of the pollution in the ocean.
I used to fish, swim and enjoy Venice Beach back when the Johnney Carson show and other shows would have thier talent scouts choose street performers to be on their shows and have a chance at stardom.
Happy Earth Day!!!! I like the O B Rag web site and news.


avatar judi April 19, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Thanks for giving the OB Rag a heads up. Talking about “heads up” – today is Tuesday and I walked Buddy this afternoon down Sunset Cliffs. It was so nice – I didn’t have to find a “poop can” to toss out Buddy’s droppings. No…there were a dozen or so cans that were still in the street – some green, some black, and some blue. I guess that not everyone knows that if the green barrel is going to be picked up on a particular Monday, the blue one is not. And…like last week, the barrels were in a variety of positions – some on their sides; some straight up; some turned over. One kept their head up, because the stench from some of the barrels was obnoxious. (I think someone went fishing and threw the heads of the fish away. Unfortunately, when the barrel was dumped over to get rid of the garbage, the heads stayed in the barrel. Why else were the seagulls having such a fun time.)

I sent this article about the trash to Kevin Faulkner and suggested that he give it a read. That was yesterday, and it was an idea from Judy – a resident of OB. Haven’t heard anything from him, but I think we that live in OB probably agree that our streets are being “trashed” and there should be a better solution of picking up the trash. Thanks everyone for your thoughts and ideas. Judi


avatar dave rice April 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Hey Mister-mayor-in-waiting, listen up! This article has gotten enough hits to rise to the top of (dare I say) one of the most prominent local news sites in your district! Howzabout taking a public stand on this issue, whether it’s in favor of improved quality of public services, touting the need for privatization (this is one of the very few sectors where I’d actually listen to a call for outsourcing), or something else?


avatar john April 25, 2011 at 4:10 am

Don’t know how old you’d have to be to remember a “clean LA” but I recall going to disneyland around 1972 or so from northern calif. In summertime the air in the whole basin was so thick and brown you couldn’t see a mile and could cut it with a knife.
Even in 1983 the summer air was so bad my hot rodded Trans Am would not run on regular gas once it got in the dirty LA atmosphere. Soon after I hit OC on the 5 or 405, it would wheeze and sputter until I got some 92 octane in it. Probably reduced oxygen not supporting the combustion process?
Anyway at least the air IS cleaner now than it was. It does look bad now but for perspective look historically at the “unhealthful days” in the 60’s-70’s and now. Or look at some old nat’l geographic or Life pictorials of the era.
The Brown City. And I’m not talking Mexicans either. :-)


avatar ilovetheoutors April 23, 2011 at 8:44 am

One more thing one day last year we had high winds for a few days and i noticed across from wonderland laundry that the apt complex put all there recycling and garbage bins on the street of coarse they where filled to the brim and lids where open. The thing was that it wasnt recycle week and the stuff was blowing out the cans and the cans where being knoocked over.Later that day i wheeled them back to the complex , i thought a littering ticket would have been i order. also i noticed how no one else wants to comment on the bums and homeless that knock over cans and riffle though garbage cans?


avatar ilovetheoutdors April 23, 2011 at 8:45 am

Lets just keep on ignoring the real problem here


avatar john April 25, 2011 at 3:58 am

I am one of the very few who still has his original can.

And it’s probably the most modified can in the city. (I am one of those “fix-it” guys who doesn’t own a product till I make it better- usually the day I buy it)

My front handle (used when the grabber arm trucks weren’t yet city wide) broke within the first 3 years. I took some Stainless Steel U extrusion and rebuilt it, with a backing plate bolted inside. Even grinded a comfort edge in the bottom so it’s all friendly for the trash guy to grip- hey, back when they were hand tipping, that was tough work.

About 5 years ago the whole front assembly where the hook picks it up tore about halfway from the can. The plastic fractured in about 8 places. Again I get the red flag. No way jack.

Took a sheet of aluminum, prolly 1/8″, cut it to size to line that whole front side about 2/3 down, got a tube of some random industrial adhesive I had laying around (if it’s two parts or makes you dizzy when you smell it, it’s good to go) and glued it inside, clamped the heck out of it then drilled about 30-40 holes from the outside in and went to town with my air riviter and some stainless steel rivits, with washers on the plastic side. It’s still solid years later.

Then the lid hinge got shaky. No way, not Mr. Beefycan. Took some threaded rod, big stuff, like 5/8″ (again stainless) and cut a piece for each side, JB welded the nuts on. Good to go.

You’ll see my can, it’s the one that says “www.rotten.com” on one side, and EAT ME on the other. BIG letters, obnoxious. And my address on all 4 sides, painted, after I scuffed the plastic rough with a wire wheel- otherwise the paint won’t stick. It’s mine, get your own. (I think my neighbors know better than to get near it, but if it disappeared I’d come after it- or it just may come home on its own, it knows who daddy is) But you can copy the fixes if you like.

Last year caught a little rust forming on the axle. Primered it. It doesn’t dare return.

Oh and all the materials were just scrap and stuff from other projects, so….. sorta on the cheap.

Advice: It’s weight that kills these things, not the sun. Don’t overload them.


avatar Terrie Leigh Relf April 25, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Now that I live in an apartment, there’s one of those big metal trash bins. We have one blue recycle can, and because it kept disappearing, it is chained to the washroom and one of our groundskeepers takes it out. Needless to say, for about 15 apartments, and who knows how many trash-creators, one blue bin is not enough–but it’s all we get. As a result, recycled stuff ends up in the big bin. . .

I must say when I lived in South Park, I saw more incidence (directly) with trash issues. Some of the guys would spill stuff and just leave it lying. One time, I politely (yes, really) asked one of the guys why they didn’t pick it up. And he said, “I don’t get paid to do that. If it bothers you, you pick it up.”

He was serious. . .the other guys just shrugged. . .

I also witnessed them riding over trash cans, etc. People taking other people’s for their stuff, people dumping their stuff in mine, etc. I called the City often for awhile.

Difficulties aside (i.e., space, etc.), our tax dollars are spent on this. . .and seriously, it does not cost 100 bucks to make their containers. The City probably makes a major profit on them. I could be wrong, but I’ve spoken to enough industry professions over the years to hear profit mark-ups are not only the sphere of private companies.


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