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Are Some San Antonians Ditching Recycling Over a Measly $25 Fine?


  • Alan Levine via Flickr Commons

As of July 1, the City of San Antonio Solid Waste Management Department stopped messing around with the gross messes that slip into the blue bins each week. As a potential result, according to figures acquired by the Current in an open records request, a new trend may have emerged in the minds of locals:

Screw recycling.

In the summer, City of San Antonio Solid Waste customers were notified that prohibited items found in the recycling bins – baby and adult diapers, needles, dead animals, bags of trash, grass clippings, leaves, water hoses – would result in a warning.

“We know that most residents recycle correctly,” Tiffany Edmonds, public relations manager with the Solid Waste Management Department, told the Current in at the time. “And no resident will be fined without receiving a warning notice and letter with pictures of the unacceptable items found, followed by a second letter informing him or her that the inspection team did find unacceptable items (garbage) in the cart again. The second letter will also include the photos taken by the inspection team.”

City records show that as of September 27, 3,526 warnings and 122 fines had been issued. The fine for recycling violations is a not-steep $25.

“This fine is not to make money, but it is to pay for having to send a special garbage truck out to collect the blue cart as trash rather than recycling,” Edmonds told us.

Instead of taking one sideways step from the black or brown container and lifting the lid of the blue bin to deposit an adult diaper or dead animal, more residents are completely ditching recycling.

According to city figures, in a six-month period from January through June 2016, 1,161 recycle containers (193 per month average) were removed from service.

By comparison, in a time period that's fewer than three months, 627 recycle containers (209 per month average) were sent back from the time the new city initiative was announced on July 1 through September 27. 

Though the increase is small — more than 8 percent when extrapolated out through year's end — there has definitely been an uptick of folks saying phooey to recycling. 

Though it's impossible to say why, Edmonds doesn’t think that some of the 350,000 residential customers that the Solid Waste Department serves are ditching a green lifestyle for a trash-only existence due to the new warnings and fines. 

“The slight increase, we do not believe it is significant enough to say that it is due to the new procedures,” says Edmonds.

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