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CAO: Bags of recyclables ended up at landfill due to misunderstanding

October 10, 2010

An incident in which a load of recyclable materials ended up in the Golden Triangle Regional Landfill last week instead of at the Starkville Recycling facility resulted from confusion by Sanitation Department employees amid a garbage truck maintenance problem, a top city official says.
On Thursday, a load of recyclables — which are collected from Starkville neighborhoods in special green bags — was found at the landfill and was documented photographically by Stan Shurden, owner of Starkville Recycling, the firm with which the city has contracted to process collected recyclables.
Shurden voiced his concerns to city officials, particularly since he had noted a reduction in the amount of recyclables being brought to the Starkville Recycling facility since April.
At the direction of Mayor Parker Wiseman, Lynn Spruill, chief administrative officer for the city, investigated the incident and found that Sanitation Department Truck No. 33 had carried the recyclables to the landfill instead of to Starkville Recycling.
Truck No. 33 had been experiencing maintenance problems and had been taken to Terry’s Garage in West Point to be repaired sufficiently to allow the truck to be used for pickup of recyclables on Wednesday, according to memo Spruill sent to Wiseman detailing her investigation of the incident.
After running the route on Wednesday, Truck No. 33 was weighed at Starkville’s Southwire Plant and then was taken back to West Point for an additional repair involving the installation of a part not available on Tuesday, Spruill said in her memo.
The truck, which was still carrying the collected recyclables, was repaired and the driver, who had been on medical leave for a week, came back to Starkville without dropping off the recyclables at the Starkville Recycling plant. The truck was then used to pickup household garbage on Thursday and was documented as checking into the landfill Thursday morning with a mixed load of garbage and recyclables, which were left at the landfill, Spruill discovered.
The driver, Spruill later found, had mistakenly understood that the city’s contract with Starkville Recycling, which will end in a few weeks, had already expired.
No other loads of recyclables have been found at the landfill, Spruill wrote.
“It appears that the instance that was brought to the City’s attention is a single event that is the direct result of a maintenance issue with Truck No. 33 and confusion regarding the status of the city’s agreement with Starkville Recycling for acceptance of the recycling materials,” Spruill wrote.
In her memo to Wiseman, Spruill also outlined steps to ensure that no further problems result in the handling of collected recyclables, including further training for Sanitation Department employees and setting separate procedures for handling recyclables.
“I do not believe that there was any deliberate attempt to circumvent the City’s agreement with Starkville Recycling, but rather a confluence of events that created some confusion leading to the mixing of materials that then could not be disposed of other than to take the materials to the Golden Triangle Regional Landfill,” Spruill said.

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