Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Bring Your Tires and TVs, Drop Off Centers Are Still Free

Milwaukee's two drop-off centers are now open Sundays, with no fees through at least the end of May.

By - May 15th, 2020 12:31 pm
The south side drop-off center. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The south side drop-off center. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The COVID-19 pandemic might finally be giving you the time and motivation to get to that spring cleaning project you’ve been putting off for years.

The Department of Public Works suspended fees at its two drop-off centers in March, a move designed to protect employees and visitors. But now it’s adding Sunday service, expanding the availability of the waste and recycling collection facilities.

Any old tires, televisions or mattresses you’ve been letting gather dust in your garage or basement can be safely disposed of for free six days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Plenty of city residents have already taken advantage of the fee suspension, including Alderman Robert Bauman. “I’ve been to the drop-off center several times, and I have got to say it runs like a Swiss watch down there,” said the Public Works Committee chair on Wednesday morning. He said he’s dropped off a number of old televisions in recent weeks.

Starting in September 2019, DPW instituted a new fee structure that includes charging $3 per tire, $5 per television and a graduated fee for loads of non-recyclable materials greater than one car load. Those fees will be waived until at least the end of May said Public Works Commissioner Jeff Polenske.

And with the suspension, volume is up. “It’s been in the area of 40 percent,” said Polenske. That volume is coming at a cost to the city. “We estimate that we have lost $650,000 in the 10 weeks,” he said.

The Common Council has debated the merits of charging the fees, particularly for televisions and tires. DPW representatives said the city pays almost dollar-for-dollar from the fees it collects to dispose of those items. Once the fees went into effect last year the collection of tires and televisions by weight went down by at least 39 percent each year-over-year. Illegal dumping reports went up three percent. Bauman and others have asked DPW to explore paying a small bounty for people to bring in tires as a way to fight illegal dumping.

DPW operations director Laura Daniels said the number of customers is up 14 percent since the fees were eliminated. “We have even had some of our suburban neighbors show up and then be turned away because their drop off centers are closed,” said Polenske.

Individuals must reside in the city of Milwaukee and have proof of residency to use the facilities.

Visitors to the drop-off centers should keep their windows closed when presenting their ID at the gate. Staff will inspect the load from outside the vehicle and direct individuals to the proper area. Staff is not available to help unload vehicles.

The two centers are closed on Mondays.

The south side center is located at 3879 W. Lincoln Ave. The north side center is at 6660 N. Industrial Rd. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District‘s hazardous waste collection program at the south side site has been temporarily suspended.

Street Sweeping

Street sweeping was also a hot topic at Wednesday’s Public Works Committee meeting.

“At the end of this week we will have touched every street and alley in the city,” said Daniels.

The city, under normal circumstances, would have 18 employees driving street sweepers in a calendar day, ten during business hours, eight overnight. “The one difference is we have all 18 operating during the day,” said Polenske, a result of the relaxing of parking regulations and fewer people leaving home.

The department, particularly in March, struggled with staffing issues as a result of the pandemic but is now operating closer to full strength said the commissioner. “The workforce levels have improved, they’re not perfect,” he said. It had started street sweeping in February, but suspended it again March, ramping back up starting April 7th.

“Litter is a real problem, debris is a real problem,” said Polenske. “We generally would have a large contingent of staff that would do a sweep through the city.”

Council members have noticed, particularly Ald. Khalif Rainey. “I can only assume that the remainder of the work to be done by DPW must be occurring only in the seventh aldermanic district because there is trash everywhere,” he said.

Polenske and Daniels promised to provide information on what streets remain to be swept. Streets in the combined sewer area, the oldest parts of the city stretching west to approximately N. 35th St., are scheduled to be swept twice a month, the city’s outskirts get once a month street sweeping.

But the committee had another idea DPW could explore to keep the city clean – deploying the city’s 30 dumpsters to dirty neighborhoods. A weekend reservation program has been suspended as a result of the pandemic.

“Why not put 15 out in Alderman Rainey’s district?” asked Bauman. Polenske said there was a concern they would be damaged.

“With putting boxes everywhere we do end up with a lot of roofing materials in those boxes,” said Daniels. The roll out box program is not intended for construction debris.

Bauman, Rainey, Russell W. Stamper, II and JoCasta Zamarripa asked DPW to look closer at the idea.

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Categories: Environment

One thought on “City Hall: Bring Your Tires and TVs, Drop Off Centers Are Still Free”

  1. B says:

    Perhaps we as a society should collect the recycling fees for TVs, tires and mattresses up front at the point of the initial sale. Better yet we could mandate that manufacturers accept returns for recycling.

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