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Dirty diapers soiling city recycling program

The City of San Antonio says it’s time for a change in the habit of tossing dirty diapers. In the last six months, the Solid Waste Department reports the amount of soiled diapers that end up in the wrong place – the blue recycling bin – has doubled.

The City of San Antonio says it’s time for a change in the habit of tossing dirty diapers. In the last six months, the Solid Waste Department reports the amount of soiled diapers that end up in the wrong place – the blue recycling bin – has doubled.

“It is about behavior changes,” said David McCary, Director of San Antonio’s Solid Waste Management Department. “In some cases, they’re using it (the blue bin) as a second trash cart. Their contaminants are bags of trash and food. We can’t send that to open markets.”

The markets collect aluminum, plastic, and paper materials from local recyclers – who sift through more than 100 pounds each hour of stinky adult and baby diapers, which contaminate the rest of the recycling materials.

The recyclers pass the cost for cleaning it up to the city as a “Diaper Tip Fee,” which last year totaled more than one million dollars.

Armed with cameras on their trucks on collection day, the city can identify who is dumping the wrong waste in the blue bins, and violators will receive a warning first.

The $50 fee is only proposed for diaper-dumpers who are repeat offenders. The city council is expected to take up the hike in fees in March.

“A diaper is a health and safety hazard, and it contaminates the entire bin of recyclables," said Greg Brockhouse, District 6 city councilman. "And that’s an unacceptable scenario,” he added.

City officials say the diaper fee isn’t a money-maker, but it is designed to re-educate people. Since 2016, the city has only pulled in $25,000 in fees. It’s estimated 97 percent of residents understand what articles are recyclable. The city wants compliance from the other three percent.

“We don’t know why people don’t follow the rules.” Brockhouse said.

He says avoiding the fee is as simple as remembering to "keep the brown in the brown bin."

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