The Buckhannon Waste Collection Board agreed to define a suitable water-tight container as a trash can with a fitted lid, saying garbage in the can must be bagged in garbage bags. Anyone using trash cans instead of the provided toters must have exemption tags for the refuse to be collected.

The Waste Board wants you to put a lid on it: Garbage bags must be placed in water-tight containers

BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon’s Waste Board wants residents to know putting out garbage bags full of trash for pickup isn’t acceptable, and that the bags must be placed in a sealed container with a lid.

The Waste Board on Thursday agreed to define a ‘water-tight container’ as a trash can with a fitted lid and appealed to residents with toter exemptions to begin disposing of their trash properly.

The discussion got underway at the Waste Board’s monthly meeting when city public works director Jerry Arnold requested the board clarify the definition of a ‘suitable water-tight container’ for garbage disposal.

Arnold said the need to clarify what constitutes a water-tight container stems from toter exemptions. The city’s waste disposal ordinance says garbage must be bagged in garbage bags and placed in suitable water-tight containers. And while most people utilize the city-distributed green toters, some residents have toter exemptions due to extenuating circumstances.

“In order to move forward with the toter can program and be able to apply exemptions, it is important for the board to set a precedent or say, ‘this is our definition of what is a suitable water-tight container’ because the assumption of people who do not want to use a toter can is that they can throw their garbage out at the end of their driveway or road just in a garbage bag and they assume the garbage bag is a suitable water-tight container,” Arnold said. “That is not the definition to me – a garbage bag is not a suitable water-tight container.”

Arnold said to him, a suitable water-tight container is some sort of a can with a lid that fits securely over its top.

“A lot of these exemptions [to using the toters] go away when we say you have to have a garbage can because we cannot just pick it up off the ground in a garbage bag,” Arnold explained. “There is a whole list of reasons why, most of which have to do with animals, of which crows are the messiest. If we say it must be in a can, most of those folks are going to say if they must put it in a can anyway, they will take a toter.”

Public works director Jerry Arnold at Thursday’s morning meeting. / Photo by Beth Christian Broschart

The City of Buckhannon began utilizing the toters in April 2018. At the time, former Buckhannon Mayor David McCauley said the 96-gallon waste receptacles were on wheels, and garbage trucks could pull up to the toters and use levers to pick up and dump the waste into the back of the truck. That would, in turn, help the city avoid person injuries workers suffer.

Arnold said at the time, the toters would be more convenient for customers because they could wheel their toter out for collection. The free toters are provided by the City of Buckhannon for use by the residents.

“My recommendation is the board say that our definition of a suitable water-tight container is a garbage can or a container that is capable of the garbage bags being placed in and sealed with a lid,” Arnold said.

Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner asked Arnold if the definition only applies to those with an exemption to the toters.

Arnold said it is just a further clarification of what it says in the ordinance governing waste collection.

“I do not think it is going to change anything with those who already have a toter because it is a suitable container and either their waste will be in a toter or in a suitable water-tight container with a lid that has a sticker on it,” he replied. “We have stickers for those who have filed for exemptions.”

City recorder Randy Sanders asked Arnold how many folks have exemptions, and Arnold told him there are approximately 50. Arnold said the reasons for exemptions are that residents either cannot handle the 96-gallon toters or they do not have a good place to put out the toters.

Skinner said a normal garbage can is about 30 gallons, while the toters are 96 gallons.

Arnold said the clarification of the suitable container gives the Waste Department the ability to go to customers and let them know that just throwing out garbage bags of rubbish for collection is not acceptable. The ordinance would give them a document or law to reference and base it on.

“Our tariff says it has to be in a water-tight container and they want to argue a garbage bag is, but it needs to be in a water-tight can,” Arnold said. “I think ‘in a water-tight can with a lid’ is a broad definition, but at least it tells the folks that the way they are just throwing garbage out in the bags for collection is not acceptable.”

Board member and city councilwoman Shelia Lewis-Sines pointed out that the toters are big cans, and said she understands they can be hard to handle, especially for older people.

“That is another thing we do, especially in town,” Arnold explained. “We do carry-outs for older people. I say we probably have 75 to 100 carry-outs on our routes. The workers go to the edge of their porch or door and get their trash and carry it to the truck for them. There are mechanisms in place to handle that.”

“That is nice to know,” Lewis-Sines said.

Lewis-Sines made a motion to approve the clarification of a suitable water-tight container being a garbage can with a fitted lid. The motion received a second by board member Scott Randall before passing unanimously.

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