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Customer: San Diego trash company was not properly recycling materials

Waste Management truck
Posted at 6:13 PM, Oct 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-07 21:18:39-04

RANCHO SANTA FE (KGTV) — A Rancho Santa Fe woman said she was doing her part to help keep the environment clean but said her trash company was not doing the same.

The customer, who did not want to share her name for this story, said she tries to separate all her trash into the correct bins. Waste Management used to provide small crates for recycling, but she said they gave customers on her street the option for larger blue trash bins within the past few months.

"It was nice to have a big container… and I picked the biggest so that we could fill it," she said.

The homeowner soon learned that her efforts did not matter. "I was chatting with my gardener, and [I] mentioned something about trash pickup," she said. "He said, you know that your recycling just goes in with the regular trash."

She then saw it for herself and shared the video with Team 10:

Waste Management Web Video

She said the Waste Management driver who picked up her trash told her there was no available route for her recycling.

She does not blame the employee--saying he was doing what he was told-- but she was frustrated with Waste Management not giving her answers when she called the company. "I was mad. I was angry," she said.

"I'm very disappointed," she added. "I don't know how much effort they're putting into… doing this route. I'm hoping that maybe if you guys ask some questions, maybe they'll put more effort into getting us a route quicker."

Team 10 questioned Waste Management, how long the lack of recycling has been going on and how many homes were affected. After more than a week, a Waste Management spokesperson said: "We take allegations of commingling seriously and have started an internal investigation into these claims. In regards to this specific customer, we have spoken to her and after investigating the matter, we've resolved the issue which arose from a miscommunication."

Despite asking multiple times about the problem with its recycling, Waste Management never answered how many homes were affected and for how long.

The homeowner said there was no miscommunication on her part. She said after Team 10 got involved, Waste Management started sending a separate truck to pick up her recycling.

She believes it shouldn't have come to this, saying the company did not practice what it preached.

"They give us all of the handouts about what goes into the recycling. They give us emails and it's on the lid and so we make every effort to put everything that we can into recycling," the customer said. "That's a lot of stuff that could be recycled instead of adding to the landfill. It's a service that I thought we were paying for."

While the recycling seemed resolved, Team 10 saw the green waste and regular trash still mixed together a couple of weeks later. A spokesperson said customers on the homeowner's street need to "place their carts on the main road" to get the green waste separated instead of in front of their homes. "Each homeowner is informed of their options when setting up their accounts," according to a statement sent to Team 10.

The homeowner said she was not previously aware of needing to move her bins away from her home.

If customers have issues with their trash provider and run into a similar situation, the Department of Public Works said they could file a complaint.

"In the case of any improper disposal of recyclable items, DPW staff would conduct an investigation by following the truck on a route to confirm whether or not the hauler was consistently disposing of recycling or green waste improperly along their route or if this collection was limited to a property with egregiously contaminated recycling bin(s), which would actually be an issue with the waste generator," a county spokesperson wrote to Team 10.

The spokesperson said they first encourage compliance from companies. If that does not work, violation of recycling rules could lead to fines or a company's agreement with the county being revoked.

The contact information to file a complaint with the county is (858) 694-2456 or email: recycle@sdcounty.ca.gov.