In what could be Mount Airy’s version of the Bermuda Triangle, the city will begin collecting unusual trash items from residences next week — some of which might disappear before sanitation crews even arrive thanks to scavengers.
Over a two-week period each spring, crews pick up extra materials from Mount Airy homes which normally aren’t accepted, in addition to regular trash collections.
Included are appliances, tires (with or without rims); building materials generated by homeowners; carpeting; automobile parts; large furniture items; bicycles and tricycles; loose leaves (normally only picked up from October to December); limbs greater than 3 inches in diameter, which must be separated from smaller-diameter brush; and old gas grills, without cylinders.
They will be accepted starting next Monday and continuing to Friday of next week. The cleanup will resume on April 1 and run until April 5, with officials emphasizing that the extra service is for homes only. Loose leaves will not be collected on March 29, Good Friday.
Metal Prices A Factor
In keeping with the spring-cleaning aspect, the annual campaign has become a popular tradition with local residents who see it as an easy way to rid houses, garages or outbuildings of unwanted items. The main requirement is that they be placed at the curb, beside trash carts on regular collection days.
Yet with the high prices offered for metals in recent years, the citywide spring cleanup is increasingly popular for another segment of society: the scavengers.
In some instances, the property owners themselves might be holding onto and selling items made of metal they might normally discard, but in others scavengers sometimes beat sanitation workers to the draw in picking them up from streets.
“I think particularly for the scrap metal, it’s made a huge difference,” Sanitation Supervisor Delmas Overby said of the market conditions involved.
Knowing that the spring cleanup is in progress, Overby said, it’s a simple matter for someone to cruise neighborhoods in search of discarded materials that can be readily converted to cash at a metals business.
“I’m thinking that people are doing that,” he said. “That’s been our theory here.”
Overby said it’s not uncommon for the sanitation office to get calls about picking up appliances at particular locations, then dispatch a couple of workers to retrieve them “and they get there and they’ll be gone.”
This has been reflected in the number of appliances picked up by city crews during the spring cleanups. In 2009, for example, 77 were collected during the two-week-period, which dropped to 36 in 2010. The last two years, just 12 have been logged altogether. Meanwhile, no bicycles have been retrieved in the past two years, compared to 26 in 2010.
The overall poundage of trash and debris collected decreased from 227 tons in the spring 2011 cleanup to 193 tons last year.
Last year also brought a sharp decline in tires received, from 410 in 2011 to 243, which Overby believes is also due to the metals factor since many of the tires discarded are on rims. Since they must be separated from the tires before selling, it shows the great lengths to which people are willing to go, said Overby, who mentioned that the sanitation department have to set aside special times for personnel to remove the tires in its shop.
“And it’s a pretty big job.”
The fact that scavengers are picking up some of the discarded items can be viewed as a special benefit, the sanitation official said, since it frees up the labor and special handling requirements involved for city workers.
Because metal prices fluctuate, it’s hard to tell whether the same trend will be evident for the upcoming cleanup.
Half of a truck chassis that someone apparently had dragged out of the woods has been among the more unusual items collected over the years by the city, along with an upright piano.
Paints A No-No
Because of environmental regulations, municipal sanitation personnel can’t accept certain items during the upcoming campaign.
These include paints, pesticides, herbicides, solvents or chemicals.
Overby pointed out that those substances can be disposed of during an annual event sponsored by the county government, typically held in the fall at Veterans Memorial Park in Mount Airy.
Anyone with questions about the 2013 spring cleanup can call the city public works division at 786-3580.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.