To cut the number of work-related injuries and re-assign City of Racine workers to help fix the roads, administrators want to automate the solid waste collection like they do with recycling.

The city plans to fully automate the solid waste collection process in phases. Starting in July,  ⅓ of the city will be given a 95 gallon cart, another ⅓ of the city will be given carts by July 2017 and the remaining property owners will receive their carts by July 2018. The city has already uses carts for its recycling program.

Mark Yehlen, commissioner of Public Works, said nationally sanitation workers are half as likely to be injured on the job as police officers, but they are three times more likely to be killed.

“I can’t tell you how many times one of my guys grabbed a bag of trash that had hypodermic needles in it and he got stuck,” Yehlen said. “They are often throwing around heavy items. They get their shoulders and knees hurt constantly….I believe we are morally obligated to implement this program.”

But Yehlen also said that he wants to switch some of those workers over to do street repair, a service Yehlen said has gone down over the past five to eight years.

The new system for solid waste collection will require residents to put out their trash differently. Currently the city doesn’t limit bulk pick-ups and they also take yard waste. But that will change as everything will need to fit inside the cart once the program is fully implemented. In the meantime city officials will need to come up with another way to deal with yard waste and schedule bulk pick-ups, Yehlen said.

“It’s going to be the end of world as we know it for some, but for others it’s not going to be much of a change,” Yehlen said.

Yehlen plans on reaching out to the public through a series of open houses to get ideas on how best to approach the yard waste and bulk pick-ups.

“While we are doing this planning process for phase one and two, I want to know what concerns people have so that we can start addressing them.”

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact Yehlen at

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