Bloomington’s Incredible Shrinking Curbside Cleanup Program

Trash_Collection.jpgStarting in Spring 2018, Bloomington imposed limits on the quantities of items picked up during the annual Spring Curbside Cleanup Program, while increasing the collection fees for that service.  Now in 2022, the city announced the program will only be offered every 2 years at no reduction in annual fees, effectively cutting the value of the service in half.  And, once again, it reduced what’s on the list of accepted items.

For more than 30 years, the popular program allowed residents of Bloomington to place almost anything curbside for pickup by the city’s contracted trash collectors one week a year. 

In fact, much of that pickup was done at no cost to the city by drive-by “scavengers” who would take the items for refurbish, reuse, or salvage.  Anything remaining on Saturday was loaded by a trash-hauler crew for disposal at the landfill.  It had been an effective, convenient, and efficient way to redistribute usable but unwanted items and also dispose of general junk.

In 2018, residents paid $44 per year for the program. In 2019 it was just over $48. In 2020 and 2021 it was $53 per year.

Residents now pay $106 per 2-year-cycle for a program that hauls an ever-slimmer list of accepted items and has ever-longer lists of “not accepted”.

Instead of having residents conveniently place furniture and general junk curbside over the span of a few days, the city now plans to invite residents to haul specific potentially reusable items (sporting goods, gardening tools) to a summer community swap. The city will also host a new annual drop-off event in the fall for recyclable materials that will be open to all Bloomington residents.

Even the language about the service reflects the city-staff misunderstanding of the dual-focus that made Curbside Cleanup so popular with residents.  Now, it’s simply “managing bulky item disposal”. 

Prediction:  The city-wide, neighborhood by neighborhood, program will be discontinued entirely within 5 years.

For the curious, below are the details of the program as it’s set up this year.

Specifics of what the city will collect curbside:

  • Limit 2 appliances per house. Water heaters, microwaves, washers, dryers, stoves, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, freezers, dishwashers, trash compactors, garbage disposals, water coolers, refrigerators.
  • Limit 2 mattresses or box springs per household.
  • Limit 2 Unusable furniture items per household: Chairs, couches and sofas, etc.
  • Limit a level-standard pickup truck bed (8 ft x 4 ft x 2 ft. high) worth of bundled brush: Branches must be smaller than three inches in diameter and five feet in length and tied with twine. Place in bundles that can be carried by one person.
  • Limit 4 items that cannot fit in small garbage cart (new limit in 2022): 

- Such as: doors, windows, cabinets, grills, bikes, car seats, carpet, lawn mowers, snow blowers, treadmills, and swing sets.

- Rolled up carpets and carpet pads, securely tied with twine.  Rolls must be less than five feet long and less than one (1) foot in diameter.

- Only large metal items, those that cannot fit in a car trunk.

  •  Limit a standard-size pickup truck (8 feet in length, 4 feet in width and 2 feet in height) of construction & demolition materials. Boxed or bundled with twine - under 100 pounds per item. Including but not limited to drywall, siding and lumber.  Lumber must be stacked and no longer than five feet. Remove or bend nails.

To recap, in 2020, general junk was still accepted, quantity limited to “a standard pickup truck bed”, but could no longer be in plastic bags – it had to be in boxes (that of course got wet in snow/rain and so did not actually hold items...).

New in 2022, no general junk pile, and no small items.  “No small items that can otherwise fit in a small garbage cart will be accepted.  Small items like clothing, bedding, broken toys and garden hoses will not be accepted."

Bloomington residents are now told to dispose of small items throughout the year as part of the normal garbage pickup. Why?  Because the city requires that regular garbage be hauled to the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center—a waste-to-energy facility in downtown Minneapolis. Garbage picked up during the Curbside Cleanup is taken to a landfill.

The city argues that by disposing of small items throughout the year in the regular garbage, the amount of material that is sent to the landfill will be reduced, along with the annual disposal costs associated with this program.  No consideration is given for the recycling services performed by the local scavengers.

So, the list of the items not permitted in the Curbside Pickup, now once every two years

  • No construction materials from businesses or contractors.
  • No railroad ties, chemically treated wood, concrete, bricks, shingles.
  • No asbestos.
  • No Electronics- TVs, computers, printers, stereos, cell phones etc.
  • No exceptionally heavy or bulky items such as pianos or organs.
  • Hazardous waste
  • No paints, motor oil, solvents.
  • No fluorescent tubes and bulbs.
  • No propane tanks.
  • No household chemicals.
  • No tubs, sinks, toilets or hot tubs.
  • No newspapers, mixed paper, boxboard, corrugated cardboard, cans, glass, plastic containers.
  • No small scrap metal: "Small" is defined as a piece of scrap metal that can fit in the trunk of a car.
  • No tires, batteries.
  • No yard waste, organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings, sod, stumps, logs, etc.
  • No food waste.
  • No general junk, no small items.
  • No plastic bags.