A can without a lid is not the biggest offense
With Baltimore's historic switch this week to once-a-week trash pickup, from twice a week, the biggest worry seems to be that there will be more piles of trash on the corners. And conversely, if the city starts enforcing the laws concerning trash, mostly law-abiding and tax-paying residents fear they will get the tickets.
Everyone may be tired of this trashy subject by now, but I had a change to talk to the head of code enforcement and he gave me the run down on what residents are most likely to get cited for doing. Thought I'd pass on the info.
Officially, Baltimore City law says you need to put your trash out no earlier than 6 p.m. the night before your scheduled pick up. Trash needs to be in a can with a lid. Households are allowed 96 gallons of trash, or about three cans. Those can need to be returned to your property, not left on the sidewalk, even if you have to drag it through your house to your backyard.Recycling, now picked up once a week, is unlimited. And no lids needed here because the items are (supposed to be) rinsed to remove any residue appealing to rats.
But, much of this isn't likely to get you cited, according to Eric Booker, assistant commissioner of code enforcement inspection at the Baltimore Housing Authority.
Unless someone calls about the mess you've made in front of your house, any of his 60 officers aren't likely to come to your house, especially on trash day. They're in other neighborhoods looking for people who put trash out on the corners in bags. Bags, especially those out overnight in a big pile, are what feed the rat population.
"I'm looking for that," Booker told me. "If I get a call that there is a violation, I have to cite it, but I'm not hunting for someone with a can in front of the house. But if you pile trash on the corner, I will catch you."
So, if you put your trash out on trash day and it doesn't all fit with the lid, or your neighbors put a bag in your can, you probably won't get a ticket. If you leave your can in front of your house instead of getting it to your backyard, you probably won't get a ticket. Probably.
Booker is after the corner piles. And he's not afraid to go all CSI and figure out who made the trash. See the video. And if you're going to go to all the trouble of shredding all your mail and all other distinguishing items, then you may as well use that energy to buy a can and use it.
Putting your trash bag on the corner can get your $150 in fines: one $50 fine for not using a can, one $50 fine for trash accumulation and one $50 fine for putting trash out on the wrong day.
Booker says putting the trash out on the corner does not help the collectors. It sends a message that this is where trash goes all the time. It's also not fair to the person who lives there.
There is a grace period of 90 days on citations, but just for putting your trash out on the wrong day or putting out more than 96 gallons. You still need to use a can.
Booker understands there will be "growing pains." And residents are allowed to appeal a citation. Last year, the officers issued 33,000 of them. (No count for how many were won on appeal.)
And he's sorry about the lost and broken cans and lids. But suggests zip ties to connect them, or chaining them to the fence. Or, as his granddad did, use a piece of plywood as a lid with a brick to hold it down. "It doesn't have to be sexy. Get creative."
One more thing about the cans: Use a liner in your trash can. Tie it closed. The collectors will grab only the bag and not the can if you do that.
And lastly, Booker says, "Please recycle. It can reduce trash by 70-80 percent."
Baltimore Sun photo/Jed Kirschbaum