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Recent changes as to what is considered bulky waste might mean more trips to the city’s waste collection site for Racine residents.

The Racine Common Council voted last week 9 to 5 in favor of changing the definition of what bulky waste is at its last meeting, which was held on Tuesday. Bulky waste had been defined as the amount of trash that exceeded the capacity of the city’s trash can. But now the city defines it as only items that wouldn’t fit inside the can if it were empty.

Learn more about the city’s bulky waste policy.

Excess garbage or boxes that are not considered bulky waste now need to be taken to a collection site or residents can see if a neighbor will let them put it in their can. Larger items that normally don’t fit inside of a garbage can, however, would qualify as bulky waste and residents can call to have those items picked up four times a year.

“The intent of the motion was to limit the number of people calling for overflow,” said Alderman Melissa Lemke.

Policy change reduces exposure to hazards

Mark Yehlen, the commissioner for the Public Works Department, asked for the policy change as a result of moving to a semi-automated garbage system.

With the transition to a semi-automated garbage pick-up process, most of the heavy lifting by Public Works employees have been eliminated. And as a result, the city has been able to eliminate 80 percent of the hazards the workers were exposed to, Yehlen said.

“I believe it’s our responsibility to implement this to the greatest extent possible to protect our workers,” he said.

Yehlen doesn’t believe the policy change will result in a hardship to residents because bulky waste pickups for evictions — where most of the issue comes into play — make up about 15 to 16 percent of the calls.

But some city alderman believed the change would further reduce services for residents.

Bulky waste change results in fewer services, some argue

Alderman Sandy Weidner pointed out that the policy change would result in reduced services to citizens. She wanted the city to go back to the original policy, which allowed residents to use their allotted four bulky waste pickup times to be used for when they have an overflow.

“Now we’ve been told by the commissioner of public works that they will not pick up bags or boxes that are put out… it is now not defined as bulky waste,” she said. “And the reason is that when they pick it up with that big claw it breaks open the bag or the big boxes, and it creates a mess. And we don’t want our folks in public works handpicking up anything, including a bag or a box.”

But Weidner argued that when the city talked about going to a semi-automated system she didn’t anticipate that public works employees “would never have to pick up an item again.”

Another issue raised by Alderman Ray DeHahn is when residents are evicted, they often go through the items that were tossed out onto the curb.

“If we don’t have something more definitive of what we are doing, we are going to have people doing mid-night dumping someplace else where they shouldn’t be — whether it be an alley or an empty lot,” he said.

Yehlen said the issue around illegal dumping is a separate issue from how residents are using and not using their trash cans.

“This is a clarification as to what bulky waste is,” Yehlen said. “Our intention is to provide people a convenient place where they can drop things off. If folks choose to put those items in alleys, that is a different issue.”

Racine residents can take non-regulated waste at a collection site on Pearl Street or one of the satellite locations from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. six days a week April to November. Staffing at those locations expanded after the city started using the semi-automated garbage collection system.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.