Automated trash collection spreading in borough

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A public works crew delivers 96-gallon trash and recycling bins Wednesday to homes on Celentano Drive. RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — The Public Works Department began delivering special trash and recycling carts Wednesday to about 350 houses in the subdivision called The Ridge, expanding routes collected by trucks with robotic arms.

The whole subdivision, anchored by Celentano Drive and Osborn Road off Route 63, will have carts by Friday, said Sheila Baummer, the borough’s solid waste and recycling coordinator.

Residents on the new route will follow the same trash and recycling pickup schedule as before, but will have to learn the rules of trash can placement that others in the borough have struggled with.

Carts must be left three feet apart and the same distance away from mailboxes, telephone poles and other objects that could get in the way of the robotic arm. If that rule isn’t followed, the arm could knock over one of the trash cans, Baummer said. In some cases, carts too close to cars or stone walls have snagged and fallen on top of them, Baummer said.

More than 30 percent of households on automated collection routes had been placing their carts improperly, and drivers had to leave their trucks to move carts themselves, slowing collection down, Baummer said. Over the summer, workers left warning stickers on carts that violated the rule. After two warnings, trash or recyclables were not collected from the houses if the carts were still inaccessible, Baummer said.

“If we didn’t correct them now, they’ve been putting it out for six months, so they wouldn’t know any different,” Baummer said.

Trash was not collected from about 50 houses after the department started cracking down, Baummer said. The tactics appear to have worked, according to Baummer, who estimated that only 5 percent of households are still not placing carts where they should.

The new group of automated carts were delivered with flyers listing what can and cannot be recycled, and stickers explaining the 3-foot rule.

“Now they know,” Baummer said. “Many know people in other parts of the town that have them, and have heard issues.”

Tom Mulligan, 69, of 121 Celentano Drive, got his carts Wednesday and had planned to put one on either side of his driveway, but was warned against leaving them too close to his car.

“I’ll have to find a spot,” Mulligan said.

The new 96-gallon carts cost about $32,000 and are the only ones the borough will purchase this fiscal year. Next year, the borough plans to buy 2,900 carts and a new automated truck for $573,000 from the reserve fund, bringing automated collection to 80 percent of the borough.

“For the department, it’s definitely going to be a help,” Baummer said. “Most of the residents seem to be happy.”