FAIRBANKS — Half of the city’s garbage collection workers have been punctured by hypodermic needles at some point in their careers while picking up garbage bags, said Jeff Jacobson, director of Fairbanks Public Works.
Several years ago, hot ashes inside a garbage can were dumped into the packer truck, which caught fire.
And a few weeks ago, oil was put into the packer truck. When the trash was packed, oil squirted out of the truck, causing an environmental hazard that required immediate cleanup.
Garbage collection can be a dangerous job, and city officials are hoping newly adopted rules will protect their employees and the community.
The amendments to city code boil down to requiring the public to put certain types of garbage into specific containers. Repeat offenses will result in fees tacked onto a resident’s quarterly garbage bill.
“It’s not a matter of catching them doing wrong,” Jacobson said. “It’s more so they can really helps us by keeping our city clean and our workers safe.”
The updated code requires medical sharps — such as hypodermic needles and lancets — to be put into sturdy plastic containers such as bleach or detergent bottles. The containers should be clearly labeled with the word “sharps” and set outside the trash can or dumpster. Jacobson said Public Works even would provide the containers, if needed.
Ashes should be cold and must be put into a separate trash bag outside a dumpster or garbage.
Hazardous materials such as poisons, pesticides, oil or any material that could cause injury, disease or property damage should be placed in separate containers, which should then be placed in cardboard boxes outside garbage receptacles.
Jacobson said if these rules are broken, residents will receive phone calls notifying them that they violated the code, and they will receive an explanation of how they can properly dispose of their trash. On a second violation, residents could be fined $25 for improper disposal of ashes or hazardous materials and fined $200 for improper disposal of sharps. Jacobson said the fine for sharps is steeper because of the risk of HIV or hepatitis and the required testing employees must go through.
Jacobson said public works would distribute fliers to residences across the city explaining the change to code and how to properly dispose of trash.
“We’re entering a new phase of partnership with our community,” he said. “This keeps our operating costs low for separating these classifications of garbage.”
In addition, owners of apartments and other multi-family housing complexes will be required to keep their dumpsters clean, and prevent them from stinking. Jacobson said $25 fines could be issued for this as well.
The fee for oversized trash has increased to $85 for beds, sofas and other items.
“There’s a certain amount of expectation to the public. If you pay your taxes you’re still expected to put (trash) where it goes,” Mayor Jim Matherly said Monday at the City Council meeting. “Above all else, we’re worried about staff.”