COVENTRY — As Coventry’s department of public works continues to encounter curbside recycling bins filled with things like yard waste and trash, it’s proposing that the town’s solid waste ordinance be amended to crack down on those found violating recycling guidelines. 

The town council heard Monday from Public Works Director Kevin McGee, who introduced a draft of the amended ordinance.

While “99 percent” of Coventry’s residents comply with the town’s recycling, yard waste and trash guidelines, McGee said, there’s still a few who “refuse” to comply. And that kind of negligence, he told councilors, is costing the town money. 

The town is assessed a fine each time a load brought to the recycling facility in Johnston is too contaminated with items that can’t be sorted. On top of that, the town is charged to dump the rejected items at the landfill.

In 2016, Coventry had just one load rejected, which McGee said cost the town $412. In 2018, a total of three rejected loads cost the town $1,229. And this year, the town to date has had to pay nearly $4,000 for nine rejected loads. 

“Each taxpayer who follows the guidelines should be outraged by this waste of tax dollars by the noncompliance of the 1 percent,” McGee said.

The error that residents seem to be making with increasing frequency includes the disposal of trash, yard waste and non-recyclables in recycling containers, McGee said. He added that a strong ordinance establishing a system of enforcement that includes penalties is imperative.

As the ordinance is currently written, there is no enforcement provision for noncompliance. 

“The fines in this ordinance are the final attempt for compliance,” McGee said of the revised ordinance. 

In addition to a number of updates regarding services and definitions, the ordinance presented Monday also proposes a system for penalizing residents who fail to comply with the procedures set forth for solid waste disposal. Under the amendments, a resident found in noncompliance would get a sticker attached to his or her bin for each violation. That resident would also receive letters outlining the violations, with the third letter sent by certified mail.

“Only after this process has been exhausted will the violation be filed with the municipal court for a fine to be imposed and the possibility of loss of service,” McGee continued, adding that the municipal court and the public works and police departments will be responsible for enforcement. 

The current solid waste ordinance hasn’t been revised since before the town implemented its automated collection system four years ago. Considering the dramatic effect that system has had on recycling rates in town, however, McGee said it’s necessary that the ordinance be adjusted to reflect that. 

Prior to implementation of the automated collection system, the town’s recycling rate hovered at around 30 percent. Coventry’s curbside recycling rate in 2019 has jumped to around 44 percent, McGee said, adding that the town’s goal is to achieve a rate of 50 percent.

McGee argued that to oppose the proposed ordinance amendments and its enforcement actions would be like “passing traffic law to the police with no enforcement ability.”

The proposed amendments to the ordinance will come before the council during a future meeting for a public hearing. 

“Please, I ask you to take consideration to make this a workable document for us,” McGee said to councilors, “so that the town can stop wasting taxpayer money on noncompliance and move forward with an up-to-date ordinance.”

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