HAVERHILL — Call them the recycling police.
Haverhill has hired two people to inspect trash in neighborhoods across in the city to make sure residents are recycling properly.
If they are not, they may be fined. One resident said he already received one warning notice saying he was late in setting out his recyclables, and that if he continued the practice he would be subject to a $50 fine.
City officials say the two coordinators won't be rummaging through your trash, but will be checking to see if people are leaving their recyclables and trash at curbside on the scheduled pick-up day.
"None of it makes sense," said Altamont Street resident Jeff Duford, who was warned for failing to put out his recyclables at the right time. "I do my part and the city makes money off of recycling. But why should I go to the bother of washing yogurt containers and mayonnaise containers and tuna cans if I'm going to be fined?"
About 58 percent of the city's roughly 14,000 households participate in Haverhill's mandatory single-stream curbside recycling program, and officials want to increase that rate. Recycling has saved the city more than $250,000 in trash disposal fees since the program went into effect citywide in July of 2010, officials said. The program allows residents to combine glass bottles, cans, plastics, paper and cardboard in one container, with no separation required. The city currently spends about $1.2 million a year in trash disposal fees.
The city's Waste/Recycling Department has received a $50,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to hire the two part-time recycling enforcement coordinators.
"We won't be looking through your trash," said Steve Clifford, Haverhill's recycling program director. "We're trying to get people to comply as the state is clamping down and we must increase our recycling rate."
Recycling coordinators Franco Cordano and Karin Devlin were hired for a term of 16 months under the grant. The two are using a new application on an iPad tablet with GPS technology to monitor the recycling rate citywide in an effort to increase tonnage that is collected.
The effort began late last fall with Cordano and Devlin surveying neighborhoods to determine the rate of participation. They recently began enforcement efforts and are visiting neighborhoods to check on who is leaving out their trash and recyclables. In the event they find a home with just trash left out, they enter that address in their iPad and leave a warning notice, along with information about the recycling program. Warnings will also be issued to residents who put out their trash and recyclables later than 6 a.m. on their scheduled pick-up day.
Clifford gave Cordano and Devlin orders to skip homes where nothing has been left out because the resident might be away or was unable to set out their trash and recyclables for some other reason.
"If there is some reason why you were unable to get your items out, call the recycling office at the number that is on the letter we leave," Clifford said. "We're not going to send people out to verify if you were sick or in the hospital or on vacation. We'll just take them off the violation list."
Duford, the Altamont Street resident, said he received a warning notice last week after he was late in setting out his trash and recyclables.
Duford said he contacted the mayor and told him it made no sense to fine someone because they forget to put their barrels out or because the ticket writer happened to come at the wrong time.
"I go out of my way to do my part," Duford said he told the mayor. "I wash yogurt cups and dog food cans by hand so they can go in the bin. If the city can't spend the time to see who actually does their part, maybe I'll convert my 40 gallon recycling containers to trash barrels and my shoe box to a recycling container."
Duford said the mayor promised to remove his warning notice from the city's file and told him there were going to be some bumps along the way, which is why the city is leaving two warnings before it issues any fines.
Clifford said the city's regulations require that trash and recyclables be set out by 6 a.m., in order to avoid being missed by collection workers or in the event of a problem.
"If the truck broke down, if they used another truck and the route had to be done differently it could arrive earlier than usual," Clifford said. "We've always had the regulations on the books, only we never enforced it. Now, with recycling, we have a lot more area to cover and the trucks need to be assured of not having to do the routes over again. It's crucial now for everybody to abide by the rules."
Clifford said no fines have been issued yet. He said the majority of residents who are not recycling live in the inner-city and in multi-family apartment buildings.
Clifford said landlords must provide their tenants with barrels and recycling stickers, and are subject to fines if they do not comply with city laws.
State regulations prohibit the disposal of recyclables, including paper, cardboard, bottles, plastics and cans with household trash.
Additionally, the city's Board of Health regulations require recycling.
City officials said informational material will be posted on the city's website, and flyers and brochures will be sent to residents further explaining the single-stream curbside recycling program.
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