Change In Recycling Brings Up Issues With Communication

On this Independence Day, a time when people usually concern themselves with the beach, barbeques, or  fireworks, the residents of Roselle Park are practicing one of the assertions found in the Declaration of Independence – they are petitioning for redress from their government regarding – of all things – garbage.

As of 6 a.m. on July 4th, there are homes in the Borough that still have not had their recycling picked up at all while others still have some of the recyclables on their lawns. Blame has been placed on residents, the mayor, council, the Borough Clerk, the contractor, and even banks but the fundamental questions of what happened and even more importantly, when will people’s recycling be picked up who have been waiting since Tuesday, remain unanswered.

Recycling in Roselle Park has – historically – been picked up every other Tuesday and, since last year, became a single-stream pick-up, which meant that there would be no need to separate plastic, glass, and cans from newspaper, magazines, and cardboard. As of July 2013, with a new contractor, everything changed with pick-up days being separated into Tuesday and Wednesday (depending on if you lived on the east side or west side of town) and pick-up reverting back to what is termed double stream – with residents now having to separate newspaper, magazines, and cardboard from their plastic, glass, and aluminum.

Where and how things got to this point depends on who you ask or where you look.

A 1,300 worded flier was mailed out on June 17th to residents informing them of how to prepare for the annual bulk pick-up and how to handle large recyclable items. The last 18 words made mention that recycling would be separated into two days. There was no mention in that flier notifying residents they would have to separate their recycling.

Then there is the Borough web site – which amid not being fully functional for six (6) day (pages loaded with sparse or no information due to the left-sided menu being absent) – had a recycling calendar that was updated on June 25th still showing the old Tuesday only pick-up schedule.

On the afternoon of July 2nd, a resident posted on a Facebook forum that her recycling was still out. The flood of complaints and clarifications soon followed. On one hand were residents who were confused and upset that perhaps another service had been taken away; on the other were those few who pointed out that the change in dates had been provided on the fliers mailed home; still there were those who cried foul stating that the information was poorly provided or that they had never received a flier and followed the information found on the borough website.

Still, no information or acknowledgement of the problem from Mayor Accardi or the majority of Council on Tuesday. 1st Ward Councilman Andrew Casais officially mentioned that the change in recycling dates was provided on the flier mailed to residents. 2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlene Storey put out information on her official Facebook page acknowledging the change in dates by providing an updated recycling calendar. Councilwoman Storey at that time, added that the person responsible for updating the web site was on vacation. The councilwoman went one step further, printing out a one-page letter clearly providing the change in dates for recycling, the need for residents to separate their recycling, information on vegetative waste pick-up, and going door-to-door in her ward delivering them to as many of her constituents as possible.

On Wednesday afternoon, people on the west side of town, who were scheduled for Tuesday pick-up, were stating that their recycling had still not been picked up or that only the plastics had been picked up and people on the west side were publicly concerned that there were no trucks in sight. Residents were on both sides of the issue, with some frustrated about how something even as simple as recycling collection has become a problem and those who feel that too much ado is made about the issue.

At around 2 p.m., Mayor Accardi made his first public announcement regarding the issues with recycling, commenting that the DPW (Department of Public Works) was monitoring the situation and that the decision to split days and return to dual stream was an economic one.

“I am trying to reach out to the contractor now to find out why they have not collected everything and how they will make it right,” Mayor Accardi stated six hours later, placing the blame on the contractor, “They said they would stay in town until everything was collected, but I just drove around and didn’t see them anywhere. Needless to say, I am not happy with the fact that their promises have obviously not been fulfilled. Not a good way to begin a new contract.”

A little after 11 p.m., the mayor provided another update, saying he met with Borough representatives – presumably assistant Borough Clerk Donna Corrigan, Nancy Caliendo, and assistant DPW superintendent Rich Graves – and the owner of the company responsible for our recycling pickup and that the recycling collection would be completed between the evening of July 3rd and the early morning of July 4th, today. The mayor added that there have been a series of issues around recycling collection which will be addressed on Friday and Monday to make sure the next collection goes more smoothly. Mayor Accardi concluded his statement by posting, “The owner passes on his sincerest apologies for any inconvenience this week’s problems may have caused.”

Around the same time, Councilwoman Storey provided a different reason for the issues with the pick-up. She stated, “The contractor has been slow because they have been trying to separate out materials. Many people had their recycling combined. Some people I met today asked why they couldn’t just pick everything up together this once. The problem is that they can’t dump the material that way.”

After all this, there are still no answers as to who was responsible for the lack of communication on dual stream pick-up as well as the change from Tuesday to Wednesday for the east side of town, but residents have been promised that those answers will  come by next Monday. Additionally, no elected official has touched upon if the lack of communication will result in additional overtime pay for the contractor or DPW which the taxpayer will – in the end – pay for. Finally, and most importantly, there are people left with their recycling garbage still on their lawns not knowing whether to take their recycling material back and wait till July 9th & 10th or to leave it out so it can be picked up today or tomorrow.

Hopefully, that will, at some point, also be addressed.