The Harrisonburg Public Works Department has been doling out fines for trash bins left out too long more frequently as residents adjust to the new Toter bins, according to Michael Parks, city spokesperson.
“We have seen an increase in the amount of times we’ve had to go out and put a notice, helping remind people that they need to bring in the can,” he said.
In the roughly nine weeks since the trash carts were first distributed, staff has issued 14 fines, or nearly one and a half every week, according to Parks. In all of 2020, staff issued 53 fines, or roughly one a week.
Many people who used to place bags outside on their trash day may be forgetting that they now have to bring the Toter back after their trash has been collected, according to Parks.
“Now, with the Toters, that’s something they have to be mindful of, so I think people are seeing that for the first time,” he said.
Parks said there has always been a fine for leaving trash bins out for too long.
“At the end of the day, we have to make sure the sidewalks are clear, but not just the sidewalks, [an empty Toter] can make its way into the roadway and become a traffic hazard,” Parks said.
The fines are at least $100 and the result of a resident leaving out a bin more than 24 hours after they have been given a notice to bring in their trash cart from public works staff, according to Parks. Such fines have been $100 for over a decade, he said.
Residential trash bins are meant to be put out at 4 p.m. at the earliest the day prior to collection and brought back from the curb no later than 7 a.m. the day after collection.
Parks said radio-frequency identification chips inside the bins are not used to track when bins are left out. Instead, the data is used to ensure trash collectors have been to a location when residents have questions and to optimize scheduling.
Fines are given over $100 when it requires more than an hour of extra work for public works staff, like when someone moves out and leaves multiple piles of garbage outside of collection times.
The fines are attached to water and sewer bills, and revenue from the fines goes to the general fund.
Parks said public works staff is still receiving emails about the new trash bins, and as more people learn and adjust, fewer notices and fewer fines will likely be issued.
“We anticipate that will gradually reduce until it’s something everyone is familiar and comfortable with,” he said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story included an error about the rate of how many fines have been given over the nine weeks since the new Toter bins were first distributed to city residents.