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That person looking through your garbage could be working for the city of Wauwatosa

Throwing away recyclables might earn you a 'tag'

Sept. 12, 2012

When a concerned Wauwatosa resident called her alderman to report that a city worker was combing through her garbage, the response from the city was that this was nothing unusual.

Matt Groholski, operations manager for sanitation, said that for at least a decade the city has done random checking of garbage receptacles for compliance with the city's recycling ordinance, which requires residents to separate recyclables from their regular garbage. Groholski said a temporary worker is usually hired for the job, and garbage cans are usually checked on the day that garbage is picked up, when, presumably, garbage cans are out by the curb.

People found in gross noncompliance - that is, throwing a lot of recyclables away - are tagged with a notice reminding them of the ordinance.

Groholski said the expense of hiring a temp is easily worth it, because, while waste dumping fees are not affected, the city is paid for the recyclables it collects. If everybody separated every item that should be separated, he said, the revenue from the sale of recyclables would pay for the entire cost of garbage collection.

He said the checks are done randomly. Just one employee is hired for the job.

City Attorney Alan Kesner said the garbage checks are not a violation of privacy nor anti-scavenging rules.

"It's not scavenging when the city does it, because when you put your garbage out, you're giving it to the city," he said.

Or, in the words of City Administrator James Archambo, when you put your garbage out, "it ceases to be private."

The recycling code requires separation of the following materials: yard materials; major appliances; waste oil; vehicle batteries; scrap tires; aluminum containers; bimetal containers; corrugated paper and other container board; glass containers; magazines; newspaper; office paper; rigid plastic containers made of PETE, HDPE, PVC, LDPE, PP, PS and other resins or multiple resins; and steel containers.

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