It Took Seven Years, But Today Whole City Goes to Same OneDAY Trash Service

Finally, it's here: OneDAY trash and recycling pick-up for the entire city, about two years after North Dallas started on the once-a-week schedule, seven months after City Manager Mary Suhm proposed it as money-saving measure and seven years after then-Mayor Laura Miller first formed a task force that proposed the idea in the first place. Till today, about 25 percent of Dallas households had already made the switchover, and Danielle McClelland, a division manager for Dallas Sanitization Services, tells Unfair Park that things are "so far, so good" from the city's perspective. Well, for the most part.

"What we've seen in the areas of town that already have the OneDay service is that it's working great," McClelland says. But, she acknowledges that rolling out a change like this for the remaining 180,000 households in Dallas will mean "a certain amount of growing pains."

Such as? You guessed it: Not every alley is created equally -- especially those behind the some 9,000 homes in older neighborhoods whose alleyways were plotted long before the advent of the modern-day sanitation trucks. McClelland says even the city's smallest trucks can't squeeze through some of those old alleyways without wreaking havoc on trees, fences and, well, anything that gets in the truck's path. Which is why most of thise households will have to make the switch from alleyway pick up to curbside service.

And even after all the advance warning leading up to today's schedule change, that doesn't sit will with the people living in those houses -- like the 37-year resident of Kessler Park, who tells Unfair Park, "In the older neighborhoods, the trash should stay in the alley -- especially if you're trying to revitalize and enhance these areas. It won't look nice. They've been picking it up alright in the alley since 1973."

But the sanitization services biz has changed a lot since the '70s, with more and more emphasis being put green thinking. And, according to McClelland, a big part of OneDAY was meant to dig Dallas's trash and recycling program out of the Stone Ages.

The initial plan to switch Dallas over to once-weekly garbage and recycling came out of a 2003 task force Laura Miller assembled to study how the city of Dallas's recycling program worked. Back then, Dallas made households segregate the recyclables, such as glass or plastic, into separate containers.

After studying other cities' recycling programs, the task force came back with a slew of recommendations, including the rather obvious conclusion that more people would participate if the program was easier to use. So, sorting in to separate tubs was the first thing that needed to go. Also, the task force determined that recycling tends to increase when a city is moved to once-a-week pickup.

"Dallas piloted the program in four neighborhoods for about four years," McClelland says. Then in February 2008, 23,000 households in North Dallas were switched over to once-weekly service. According to McClelland, the city saw a whopping 44 percent increase in the number of requests for the blue carts in those neighborhoods, and the average recyclable material gathered from each household went from 28 pounds per month to 51 pounds.

"Sixty percent of those people now recycle, where as they didn't before," she says. "People are realizing that more than half of the stuff they would ordinarily throw away, paper, glass, plastics, metal -- that sort of thing -- can be recycled," McClelland says.

And, apparently, the city is really hoping that you put that extra recyclable junk into your blue roll cart. Why?

Well, over the last four years, as city council has been briefed on how well the program was been working, McClelland says: "The city council got a little excited when they saw the numbers, because, naturally, we are able to sell the materials we collect for recycling."

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Daniel Rodrigue
Contact: Daniel Rodrigue