TAMPA — Some residents were so eager to use their new over-sized garbage cans from Hillsborough County that they immediately loaded them with trash and sat them out by the curb.
Problem is, the trucks equipped with robotic arms meant to lift the heavy receptacles won’t hit the streets until late September.
And the new cans are too heavy for garbage collectors to manually lift and dump. Under their contract with the county, the waste haulers are not required to reach into a can and remove anything.
So when they encounter the new cans filled with trash by the curb, the haulers flag them with a reminder that they should not yet be used. Then they leave without dumping them.
Every resident in Hillsborough County is receiving two new cans — one for garbage and one for recyclables.
The county included information about the automated program and when it starts when the cans were delivered. But residents may have overlooked the envelopes, which were placed inside the bins.
Hillsborough County Utilities has since started placing stickers on the lids of the new cans it delivers to make sure the information doesn’t get overlooked.
“It’s hit or miss. Some folks have started trying to use them,” said Utilities Director John Lyons.
About 30 percent of the county’s residents had received their new receptacles as of this week, said Kim Byer, manager of the new automated collection system. About 10 percent of those residents are filling and using the new cans prematurely, she said.
“The majority of the county residents have a start-up date for the week of Sept. 30,” she said. About 30,000 residents in southern Hillsborough County will be phased in beginning Sept. 3. Progressive Waste Solutions, the hauler in that area, will use that time to train employees on the new equipment, Byer said.
Garbage will continue to be picked up twice a week under a service option approved unanimously by Hillsborough County commissioners.
The commission’s vote to move to an automated garbage pickup system came despite informal polls and a telephone survey that showed 62 percent of county residents favored keeping manual collection.
Commissioners acknowledged the difficulty of changing a system that has been in place for decades, but said it has been used successfully in numerous other locations and the advantages in cost savings, environmental impacts and safety for garbage collectors are too significant to ignore.