Make sure to keep garbage bags tied shut so that wind doesn’t carry trash into the environment.

Make sure to keep garbage bags tied shut so that wind doesn’t carry trash into the environment.

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Experts offer advice for when high winds threaten to blow away trash, recyclables

By: Mike Koury | C&G Newspapers | Published May 16, 2018

 Bagging up loose papers and setting the heavy bag on top of lighter recyclables can help keep items from blowing away.

Bagging up loose papers and setting the heavy bag on top of lighter recyclables can help keep items from blowing away.

Photo by David Wallace

METRO DETROIT — A Friday in early May brought extremely high winds that kicked the spring season into high gear.

A concern that comes with high winds is the potential that trash and recyclables will be spilled over and spread throughout neighborhoods. Friday, May 4, brought wind speeds that hit in the area of at least 45 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

“There’s nothing you can really do to prevent the wind from getting it,” said Joe Munem, director of government affairs and public relations at GFL Environmental USA Inc. “The carts — the ones with the lids and the wheels — tend to be less likely to tip, but if they get oriented in the right direction on a windy day like that, they might start rolling down the street.”

Munem said that for the few communities that have 18-gallon bins, those should be brought in as well, as and if a person has open recyclables in a small container, there’s nothing they can do to prevent them from being blown all over if they’re put out.

“This is largely residents using common sense. Cans, the old-fashioned cans, even with lids, because they tend to be more narrow at the base … they tend to tip a little bit more. So our recommendation would be (to) go with carts,” he said.

“No matter what, if the wind is gusting hard enough, there’s not much you can do,” he said.

Mike Csapo, general manager with the Resource Recovery and Recycling Authority of Southwest Oakland County, said the authority recommends that people use a container that complies with their city’s specifications, which is generally 35 gallons or less in most communities. 

“Homeowners also can just set out trash in garbage bags,” he said. “Obviously, they should be sealed — tied shut so that debris doesn’t spill from loose bags.”

Interim Department of Public Works Director in the city of Ferndale Carlos Kennedy said that if people are looking to put their trash out and high winds are expected, it might be best to wait until early in the morning to take it out instead of the night before — something Csapo also offered as a suggestion.

“I wouldn’t wait any longer past 7 a.m. in case you might miss your truck,” he said. “If you put it out at, like, 6:30 in the morning, I think you can pretty safely get it out there without having it disturbed overnight by people digging through it getting bottles out of the recycle bin, or the wind blowing around, or an animal getting in there.”

Kennedy said Ferndale DPW talked about this issue just recently, and a problem is that a lot of residents are at work when their trash is collected. 

“Once the trash is emptied, and I know it’s an inconvenience, but if a neighbor or somebody works a different shift or is retired, you know, move their can back up on their property or in their backyard. I think that would help with reducing the amount of cans that are blowing around,” he said.

Trash blowing around the city isn’t a problem that Ferndale sees frequently, Kennedy said, but if city employees do see it, they’re pretty fast in getting on it and cleaning it up. He also said that they get help from community service workers to pick up trash.

“We try to stay on top of it as much as possible,” he said. “We’re pretty successful most of the time.”

Munem said trash carts are less likely to be blown over, but trash blowing around isn’t going to be one’s biggest problem if wind speeds are strong enough to blow over trees and knock out power, which happened May 4.

“Our recommendation would be if the wind is that powerful and that’s your trash day, you might want to just try to bring it in and see if it can sit for a week,” he said. “Particularly recyclables, because recyclables are rarely going to present any sort of odor problem.”