Why are we making changes to the Curbside Cleanup Program?
Council directed the Sustainability Commission to develop alternative methods to dispose of bulky items like chairs and couches in a more sustainable way. The current curbside model generates significant waste sent to landfills, discourages re-use and recycling, is expensive, and exacerbates growing concerns related to availability of landfill space for these materials in the future.
What are the environmental issues with our current Curbside Cleanup Program?
Curbside Cleanup waste is landfilled
Our regular residential garbage collected each week is sent to a waste-to-energy facility, the Hennepin Energy Recovery Facility in downtown Minneapolis, where it is incinerated and the resulting heat is converted into energy used to heat nearby buildings. Our Curbside Cleanup waste cannot be sent to HERC because the facility is not designed to handle the volume of bulky items that our Curbside Cleanup program generates, and therefore the items need to be disposed of in landfills.
The City landfilled 1,537 tons waste during the cleanup in 2019, and 2,000 tons in 2020. With the exception of appliances and brush, all items collected by haulers during the cleanup are disposed of as garbage. Landfilling causes emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Rising levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere cause climate change. The local landfills are approaching capacity and the City does not support the continuous growth of these landfills.
A study of the Curbside Cleanup Program found that 35% of items set out during Curbside Cleanup were in good, re-usable condition or could have been recycled
Although some items set out at the curb get collected by other residents for re-use, there is still a lot of high quality stuff left over that ends up in the landfill. In a 2019 study conducted of over 2,000 cleanup piles right before the garbage haulers came through, we found that 35% of the items landfilled were in good, re-usable condition or could have been recycled.
There are other options for managing bulky item waste that would allow for those items to be recycled or re-used rather than landfilled.
How will I dispose of bulky items in the proposed new plan?
To continue offering some sort of curbside pickup, the proposed plan would allow each household in the City’s garbage and recycling program to receive two vouchers that are each good for the collection of a bulky item, for example this could be an old refrigerator, a television, a mattress or a couch. The resident would schedule the pickup like they do now, through Utility Billing. Residents could schedule this anytime throughout the year. In a voucher system, the mattresses, appliances, electronics, and some of the furniture could be recycled.
In addition to vouchers, the City would also coordinate one or two citywide Community Cleanup Events each year where any Bloomington resident could bring a variety of items to a central location to be disposed of in a single day. This type of event would allow for the materials to be sorted into several different categories for recycling and reuse.
More information about the proposed changes: 2020 City Council Presentation on Sustainable Alternatives to Curbside Cleanup Program (582 KB) (pdf)
Will Curbside Cleanup continue as normal in 2021?
Yes, Curbside Cleanup will continue as normal in 2021. For more information and this year’s Cleanup dates visit our website at blm.mn/curbside.
When will the proposed changes take effect?
The proposed changes would take effect in 2022.
Will the proposed changes cost less money?
It costs over $1 million to provide the current Curbside Cleanup. Based on our research as we developed the proposed plan, we found that the proposed changes could cost significantly less than the current curbside cleanup. Because this plan is still in the Community Engagement Phase, and hasn’t been fully approved by Council, we do not have final cost figures yet. In order to get those final cost figures, we will have to put parts of the plan, like the bulky item voucher service, out for bid, and determine other program costs. So, it is challenging for the City to address what the actual cost savings to residents might be at this time. However, if the final cost figures do reflect cost savings as we have anticipated, the Curbside Cleanup fee would be adjusted and reduced accordingly.