Trash a Hot Topic on Campaign Trail

Prince George’s County

by: Bruce W. Branch Special to the AFRO
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In Prince George’s County, trash has become a leading issue in the upcoming elections.

First it was Maryland State Sen. C. Anthony Muse, running for County Executive, who promised to restore two-day trash pickup, if elected. Shortly thereafter Angela Alsobrooks followed suit with the same promise. Even former Rep. Donna Edwards mentioned the reduction in a recent town hall meeting with supporters. So, did several candidates for the Prince George’s County Council.

That’s all because the Baker Administration, which recently awarded a lucrative 10-year contract to Goode Trash Removal of Hyattsville, Md., decided it was more cost efficient for the county to reduce garbage pickups to one day a week. The county council agreed that the measure would save money and encourage recycling so they voted to approve the decision.

It is a decision that does not sit well with many county residents.

According to a study conducted by County Council member Mel Franklin (D-9), 74 percent of more than 2,000 residents, polled through Thinkstock over a 45-day period, did not like the decision. The survey results were released 14 months after the council vote, but Franklin and others believe the decision may have been a mistake. It is costing some elected officials a lot of political capital as they attempt to explain the decision to residents.

“It stinks,” Cheryl Butler of Accokeek, Md. told the AFRO. “This is the time of the year when a lot of people are having cookouts or a lot of things they are throwing out. In some neighborhoods, the trash is just piling up. This is crazy and unsanitary.”

Franklin said in a public statement the once a week trash service had “good intentions,” but residents impacted by the decision have responded with “overwhelming disapproval. “I have particularly heard a great deal of negative feedback from our seniors, who have found physically adjusting to the change in service challenging,” he said. He has started to lobby colleagues to go back to the old system.

County Director of the Environment Adam Ortiz says not so fast on going back to the old system. He said the county, in an internal study, had found fewer residents were utilizing the twice-a-week collection since they started their recycling program more than 20 years ago. “This is an opportunity to tie a lot of loose ends together and provide streamlined, efficient services to our residents,” Ortiz told WTOP Radio. “We want to make sure we use what resources we have as efficiently and as wisely as possible.”

He also stated that County residents are using their blue recycling containers more and trashing less. “So, it’s good policy to make the switch now that residents are doing their part in helping the county reach its zero waste goals,” Ortiz told WRC TV.”

That doesn’t make Langley Park Boys and Girls Club Director and Upper Marlboro homeowner Greenfair Moses feel any better. “Less is never better than more,” Moses told the AFRO. “I understand the county is trying to save money, but we are also trying to preserve our community. It doesn’t look good when there is a lot of trash just thrown around and waiting to be picked up off the street. I get recycling, but not everyone does it.”

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