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JUNE 03 - JUNE 11, 2014

Dyster Garbage Plan Utter Trash; Residents, Businesses to Pay Price

By Mike Hudson

June 03, 2014

In most communities, the smaller tote (64 gallons) is for recylcing and the larger one (96 gallons) is for garbage. But, uniquely, in Niagara Falls, under the new Dyster plan, it is reversed. The smaller one will be for garbage and the larger one is for recycling. Residents used to be able to throw out as much garbage as they liked. Starting August, they will be limited to just what they can stuff in the smaller tote. What will happen to the excess garbage is anyone's guess (see below for possible clues)

Garbage in, garbage out, GIGO in computer jargon, could very well be Mayor Paul Dyster's personal motto as well as the slogan of his administration. Take his recent garbage proposal on garbage, for example.

Under the Dyster plan, as many as 500 businesses in the city – those generating more than 64 gallons of garbage per week yet not enough to warrant having dumpster service – will be left with no real way to get rid of the excess refuse.

That's because, under the Dyster plan, Lewiston's Modern Corp. is not obligated to pick up any garbage or trash not contained in the new 64-gallon garbage totes and the 96-gallon recyclable totes businesses and households will be forced to use under the terms of a five-year contract signed at the end of April.

The 64-gallon garbage totes will be the smallest used by any municipality in Western New York, according to numerous sources in the waste management business, and having the recyclable container 30 gallons larger is exactly the opposite of the practice in neighboring communities.

The Town of Amherst, which boasts the highest recycling rate in the region at 24-to--28 percent of its trash, employs 96-gallon garbage and 64-gallon recycling totes. Industry-wide, the 96-gallon garbage container is the standard all across the country.

To make it clear: starting in August, residences will not be able to throw out more than what they can stuff into a 64 gallon tote. Anything over and above that left in bags at the street will not be picked up.

This is entirely different than the current service which will pick up as many bags or cans as a household leaves at the curb. This is something that Dyster has not made clear to the public.

Dyster says he wants Niagara Falls, which currently has the lowest recycling rate of any municipality in Western New York at an embarrassing 4 percent, to get with the program. It costs more to dispose of garbage than it does to get rid of recyclables, and the large numbers of enterprising individuals who troll the city's trash cans on garbage day for bottles and cans they can return for deposit lowers the cost even further.

Grass clippings? Yeah, that's going to be a problem. Because, under the Dyster contract, even residential customers will not be permitted to put waste to the curb in plastic garbage bags. Only what can be shoehorned into the 64-gallon container will be picked up.

Just to give you an idea of how big a 64-gallon container is, the smallish kitchen bags used in most households are 13 gallons, meaning that five of them could theoretically be jammed into the container.

Many families fill a bag a day in their kitchens alone.

And the often transient population Dyster and his policies have promoted here means frequent moves from one substandard apartment to the next, with the extra garbage and trash that always accompanies a move.

Garbage will be picked up every week and recyclables every other week under the plan.

What will happen to the garbage Modern doesn't have to pick up under the Dyster plan? We can only imagine. But it's a pretty safe bet that, with the new Sanitation Waste Education Enforcement Team (SWEET) ready to start "more rigorous" enforcement of garbage regulations here, the city's many vacant lots, alleyways and abandoned railroad lines will present unique opportunities for those stuck with more than the permitted amount of garbage to get rid of.

Last week, the City Council approved $58,000 in casino revenue to be used toward funding the SWEET program, which will be administered by the city's Department of Public Works.

"What we're trying to do here is minimize the impact for both businesses and residents," Dyster said. "But, it is the case that in order to create a greener city, also in order to create the savings that we envision going forward, both individual residences and business are going to have to change what they're doing."

It is unclear whether or not the SWEET teams will have the authority to issue citations to those found to be in violation of the city's new program, and no point person has been named to govern enforcement. The new program is set to begin sometime in August and the Dyster administration has its work cut out for itself.

The money allocated for the SWEET program will pay for three part-time employees, the use of vehicles by those employees, office supplies, cell phones and service and educational advertising, according to the Dyster resolution passed by the council.

The plan calls for having the teams follow the garbage trucks around town, "educating" residents as to the evils of mixing garbage with recyclables, generating more garbage than can be contained in the miniature totes and other largely annoying details of the program they've been saddled with.

What the Dyster plan really amounts to is a drastic cut in service, thinly disguised as a cost saving measure having the added benefit of making one of the most polluted cities in North America a "greener" place in which to live.

Modern Corp. charges the city by the stop and by the ton.

Breaking the cost up for collection and disposal means that if the city can have a higher diversion to recyclables, they pay less and that's what Dyster is counting on.

But the administration's projections are based on the city going from having the worst recycling record in the region to having the best by far.

Most communities pick up the normal rational amount of garbage a community disposes of. The Dyster plan is to pick up less -- perhaps 75 percent -- of the garbage this community generates.

One thing is certain; There will be a lot of garbage that cannot fit in those smaller totes.

City Administrator Donna Owens, who came to Niagara Falls with garbage credentials picked up in Atlanta, Ga., and Baltimore, Md., masterminded the new plan for the Dyster administration. Her experience in governing garbage was what made Dyster hire her as part of his "best and brightest" program instituted after he took office in 2007.

"We're on top of this," Owens said, though it was unclear if she was referring to the contract she helped negotiate or the piles of uncollected garbage that contract will surely generate.

Change is in the wind, but many won't want to be downwind of a city that has made getting rid of rotting waste more difficult than it has to be.

How will the small business know whether they are not going to get garbage service anymore? The Dyster administration admitted that there are 500-600 business that will not get picked up anymore.














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