Neighborhoods rival over trash reduction | May 20, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 20, 2011

Neighborhoods rival over trash reduction

Mini-can challenge to inspire recycling, creative composting

by Sue Dremann

Three neighborhood groups have thrown down the gauntlet over trash. The friendly rivalry pits the Barron Park, College Terrace and Midtown Green Teams in a "mini-can challenge," to get at least 50 percent of their residents to use the city's smaller 20-gallon trash receptacle.

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Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at


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Posted by MidTownResident
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2011 at 9:43 am

This certainly seems like a step in the right direction. Our 20-gallon trash can is never even close to full. I used to have a 10-gallon can and that wouldn't be more than half full most of the time. There are times when we must put things in the trash. But most of the refuse really should be recycling or yard waste/compost. Let's keep working on leading by example.

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2011 at 10:11 am

Great idea! Nothing like a contest to call people to action - much better than preaching and more fun.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2011 at 11:06 am

Absolutely no point, it will only mean that we have to pay more to have the trash removed!

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 25, 2011 at 11:06 am

While I applaud this effort and I am also a mini-can subscriber, we palo-altans need to realize that success at increasing mini-can subscription will paradoxically increase disposal cost for home-owners. This is because the fixed cost stays the same even where there is less refuse. The next step is to think hard about reducing those fixed costs as well.

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Posted by awaiting her can
a resident of Green Acres
on May 25, 2011 at 11:08 am

I signed up for a mini can a few months ago and greenwaste told me there was a backlog. They said they'd charge me for the mini and give me one when they arrive. I'm still waiting (and happily paying less).
Not sure what takes so long to order a bunch of cans. Seems odd to do such a challenge when the provider can't support demand PRIOR to the challenge. The effort is indeed a great step in a positive direction, regardless of execution challenges, so, kudos to the drivers of this.

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Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2011 at 11:31 am

What's the point? I usually have one little plastic bag of garbage, yet they are raising the rates again on trash pickup, including the recyclables. I've been "green" for many, many years, but, frankly, I don't see the reward.

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Posted by Joe Baldwin
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2011 at 11:37 am

Our 10-unit condo used to have three (3) 96-gallon garbage cans - nearly
29 gallons per household.
We now have only one (1) such can -less than 10 gallons per household.
Everything else goes into one of 3 blue recycling bins, or our one green
compostables bin.
Our concern is the CPAU/Greenwaste bait-and-switch approach. We were urged to make our changes by the promise of reduced costs to us.
Meantime rates have already gone up twice and we now expect that the
"free" blue and green bins will stop being "free" later this year.

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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on May 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm

From the article: Last month, the group arranged a tour of the transfer center for the city garbage company, GreenWaste. Residents saw first hand en masse what Palo Altans put in the trash.

"The amount of plastic bags people throw away -- the ones we get when we buy broccoli -- that were on the GreenWaste conveyer belt was huge," she said.

Was this a tour of the Sunnyvale SMaRT station or the GreenWaste facility in San Jose? The black mini-cans go to the SMaRT station, while the GreenWaste facility processes the blue recycle bins. In Palo Alto, plastic bags can go into the blue bin.

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Posted by hmmm
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm

College Terrace is bound to win. They'll just follow form, dump all their trash on Stanford and claim victory.

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Posted by Wondering
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Wasn't it the too-late reported increase in landfill contract amount from the reduction of the landfill waste stream the reason that poor old Glenn Roberts got the boot in the first place?

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Posted by Sheri Furman
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Just as a clarification, Green Teams are not part of the Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN) organization, but rather are part of PA_CEAP.

Sheri, PAN Chair

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Posted by Don
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2011 at 4:48 pm

To prevent the plastic bags from flying off the SMaRT station conveyer belt. stuff them in a larger size plastic bag, tie it off and put the "sausage" into the recyclable bin.

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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2011 at 1:39 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

We use a mini can and save money from it. The city is currently locked into an unfortunate put-or-pay contract with the Kirby Canyon Landfill, which requires the city to pay a minimum fee if they deliver less than the minimum amount of garbage. This 20 year old contract may have initially led to lower garbage rates, but now it has the perverse impact of penalizing the city for generating "too little" trash. However, this contract expires in 2021, at which point I'm sure the city will try to get a better rate that doesn't penalize it for reducing its trash.

Getting as many people as possible to use the mini cans will help to train and trend the city towards lower trash generation. Such a behavioral shift can take a long time, so it makes sense to start now. And, despite the put or pay, less trash to pick up saves on fixed costs: fewer trips back and forth from residences to the landfill, so a truck can cover more area before they have to empty their truck. Plus, we don't even put out the garbage, compost, or recycling bins most weeks, because they aren't full enough to warrant it, so this also saves the city money, with that many fewer bins to empty.