by Andrew Garda

Montclair residents are once again running afoul of rules around waste collection.

In October, the township directed residents to stop placing masks and latex gloves in with their household recyclables. Now the township is faced with another such situation, as residents are putting out garbage that exceeds the 50-pound weight limit.

Councilman David Cummings saw some of the problems firsthand when he did a ride-along with Craig Brandon, operations supervisor for the township.

“He invited me to do a ride-along because I’ve had an interest in recycling, and not just recycling, but also just the sanitation department [in general],” Cummings said. 

While other recycling problems continue — mainly including pizza boxes in recycling and mixing paper and plastic containers — a growing issue is the weight of the trash.

“A lot of people have garbage bags [and] garbage containers that are too big,” Cummings said. “I think there were a couple of places that had like 90-pound receptacles, and you’re supposed to only have [35-gallon containers].”

The 35-gallon receptacle size limit, along with the 50-pound weight limit, was implemented for the safety of the workers who have to lift the containers. If a receptacle is too heavy, it can cause muscle and back injuries, which in turn can cost the township money in terms of worker’s comp claims.

The Montclair Local requested workman's comp information from the The Township but had not had not responded to the OPRA as of press time.

“It’s a result of people just not doing the garbage correctly,” Cummings said.

The township did not respond to Open Public Records Request asking the number of claims and the cost of those claims over a three year period.

One solution could be replacing current collection vehicles with new ones, called side-loaders, that have mechanical arms to pick up specialized trash cans supplied to each residence.

Towns such as Rutherford and Mahwah have the new trucks. Collection requires only one sanitation worker, who drives the truck and works the mechanical arms.  

But the system isn’t cheap.

In February Mahwah spent $1.92 million for six side-loaders. New cans for residents would also be a cost.

Township Communications Director Katya Wowk said that, according to Community Services Director Steve Wood, the idea of using automated side-loader trucks was “not likely” and that “no cost analysis has been done.”

For Cummings, that’s fine, as the councilman feels the first step must be education.

"Why don’t we educate the residents first?" he said. 

Since some residents might not be aware of the weight and size limits, which are posted on the township website under “Garbage, Recycling and Bulky Waste” as well as in the township code under 292-21 “Suitible Receptacles,” Cummings feels that a mailer to each residence might help. 

Wowk said the township usually sends out reminders over the holiday period, not just about weight and capacity but various disposal methods as well.

Cummings said that the communication has to be ongoing.

“It’s kind of got to be more of a sustained strategic plan of how we’re going to make people aware of the importance of it. This is something the town needs to do because it also impacts the town from a cost factor,” he said.

According to the township website, “Suitable receptacles for solid waste collection shall mean receptacles made of metal or rigid plastic, with a capacity of no more than 35 gallons, with handles, solidly constructed, so as to prevent spillage or leakage of contents, and weighing not more than 50 pounds when placed for collection.”