Yard waste, plastic bags end up in sewer

New trash collectors taking yard waste, leaving behind plastic bags

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – As of Jan. 1, Orange County's new trash collectors will pick up yard waste in old cans (not the newly-issued 55-gallon rolling bins) or plastic bags.

But residents in East Orange County's Eastwood subdivision said the plastic bags have been left behind ever since the changeover to once-a-week collection.

"The bags are here, debris is all over the ground, I started picking up debris and I got so angry," said Lee Eaton. "Between the wind it has now gone down under the sewer down into the drain, and if this happened here, how many homes is it happening to?"

Eaton said she knows for sure it's happening to her Eastwood neighbors. Their plastic bags have also been left behind on yard waste pickup days. She showed News 6 leaves and sticks that have accumulated in the storm drain in front of her home marked with a sign that reads "No dumping."

"You can't clog the sewers, you can't clog our streets, and when they spill stuff, just like regular garbage, you have to pick it up and not leave it behind," said Eaton.

The newly hired haulers have been instructed to de-bag the yard waste, slicing open the bags and emptying the contents into the back of the trash truck, but Eaton said that takes time and decreases efficiency.

"It's a waste of time," said Eaton. "Hire someone and call them the 'de-bagger' at the facility."

A solid waste district supervisor told News 6 the reason the yard waste is emptied from the bags is that the new processing facility can not accommodate the plastic - the machines get stuck.

But an Orange County spokesperson said Wednesday that all haulers are supposed to take the bags with them and dispose of them properly.

"Under the new contract, the haulers are now required to de-bag yard waste at the curb; however, they should not be leaving empty bags behind and they are required to clean up any mess," said spokesperson Doreen Overstreet. "We encourage residents to contact our Solid Waste Hotline at 407-836-6601 if the haulers are not providing the correct service or leave behind any type of mess or bag."

"[Our] yard waste hauler has also said that they have spoken to all drivers about the de-bagging process and not to leave any bags," said Overstreet. "They carry a larger bag on each truck to dispose of smaller bags. They are either dropped off at 1) the roll-off box at yard waste facility, 2) collected by supervisor or 3) brought to our yard to be disposed of in garbage truck."

"The county has encouraged residents for many years to use cans for yard waste set out where possible as this is the more sustainable practice," an official with Orange County Utilities said. "Due to the nature of the material, yard waste collection at the curb is inherently a messy process, whether the waste is in bags, cans or bundles. The haulers under the previous contract were responsible for cleaning up any mess they create during the collection process and that is still the case with the new contracts."

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