Cheektowaga Highway Superintendent Christopher Kowal has issued a plea to residents: Stop using plastic bags for yard waste and put it in hard, open top containers or biodegradable paper bags.
"It was going great all last year," he said.
But this year, the keepers of those well-kept lawns in Cheektowaga stopped using open containers for their grass clippings.
The Town Board banned plastic bags for yard waste starting Jan. 1, 2002, to save money, although some residents angrily opposed it.
Still, the ban was effective, and most people used hard, open top containers or mulched their grass clippings last year.
"Now they're putting all their grass in plastic bags," Kowal said. "Because we're out of the recycling business, they think we're out of the grass business."
Kowal said it costs nearly twice as much, $38 per ton, to pick up the grass with the garbage and dispose of it at American Ref-Fuel, compared with $19 per ton with Greiner Industries. Plastic requires more labor to remove and contaminates the loads, driving up the costs.
He said the savings will amount to about $200,000 a year but not if residents keep using plastic bags.
Kowal said the clippings in plastic bags were picked up one week by town crews with the garbage, because the contract with Greiner Industries did not start until Thursday .
But then sanitation crews started leaving the plastic bags behind, and some residents got angry. One reportedly tried to throw his bag on the truck himself.
The supervisor and councilmen's offices received more than 50 calls, all with the same complaint: They took my plastic bag with grass clippings last week, but left it behind this week.
So Kowal's reply is: Don't put yard waste in plastic bags, and it will be taken.