The carts, which will be distributed this month, are part of the city’s transition to making Priority Waste its new refuse hauler.

The carts, which will be distributed this month, are part of the city’s transition to making Priority Waste its new refuse hauler.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Residents to get new carts for trash, recycling

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 1, 2024


STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights officials are wheeling out the latest news about residents’ new rolling waste and recycling carts, as well as etiquette on how to use the receptacles.

During the March 19 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, the council voted unanimously to introduce an ordinance updating regulations for curbside pickup of trash, recyclables and yard waste.

The move comes as the city gets ready to switch waste haulers to Priority Waste and introduce universal curbside recycling services. The city approved a 10-year contract with Priority Waste last September. As part of the transition, curbside recycling will no longer be an optional subscription program — all homes will be enrolled in the program.

In addition, city officials talked about the upcoming distribution of trash carts and recycling carts to residents.

The city says residents will get a green 95-gallon refuse cart and a blue 65-gallon recycling cart sometime this month. Residents who typically drop off waste at the curb — or in common areas for carts — will start using the new carts when Priority Waste begins its hauling services May 1.

Officials say the carts will keep trash contained so that it doesn’t create messes or blight. As part of the new rules, garbage must be placed in its designated cart and not be left in trash bags at the curb.

Officials said yard waste can be placed curbside in 39-gallon paper waste bags, or residents may buy an additional 95-gallon cart from the city’s waste hauler.

During the March 19 meeting, Community Relations Director Melanie Davis said the city has managed a “We’re on a Roll” public outreach and education campaign via mail, newspaper ads, online ads and social media. She added that the campaign has tried to reach out to English, Spanish and Arabic speakers.

Through that campaign, residents have received information on what types of trash can be recycled, whether it’s paper, cardboard, metal, glass or plastic. Styrofoam, batteries and electronics are among the items that cannot be recycled, officials said.

During public comment, resident Sanaa Elias said she wanted to know why the new system with the large carts is mandatory when she has “one small bag of garbage.”

“I’ve talked to some people. They don’t have no room in their garage, and they don’t have room outside their house. It is going to be a problem,” she said.

She also wanted to know what portion of recyclables received are actually recycled.

“I went on the computer and read the EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, and they said 50% is going in the landfill,” she said. “So why are you making it mandatory?”

Councilman Michael Radtke said the carts are a way to keep trash from attracting raccoons and feral cats. He lamented the calls and complaints that he has heard about the upcoming changes, adding that “it can work in Sterling Heights. This is not going to be some crazy idea.”

“It’s like they just want to gripe, and it’s frustrating,” Radtke said. “At the end of the day, this is going to be a boon to service. You’re not going to see trash blowing through your neighborhoods. You’re not going to have rats in your neighborhoods.”

Sterling Heights City Manager Mark Vanderpool said the universal curbside recycling program is mandatory “because it’s a best practice” shared by many other communities in southeastern Michigan.

Vanderpool said all collected recyclables will go to a recycling recovery station, and materials are only not accepted when they’re improperly collected.

“There may be cases where the recycling load is contaminated, where someone doesn’t follow the instructions, and they may bag their recyclable material, and in those cases that contaminates the load,” he said.

“And that’s why public education is so important with this. That’s a rarity — that’s the exception, not the norm.”

Vanderpool said there is no opting out of getting a recycling cart, though he said residents can store them away and not use them. Still, he encouraged people to use them, especially for disposing of cardboard boxes that come from Amazon deliveries or other delivery services.

“(It would) be horrible to be throwing those boxes into the garbage, taking up precious landfill space,” he said. “Now you can recycle it right at your curb. Simply put the cardboard in the cart, wheel it out – you’re good to go.”

Learn more about trash and recycling services by visiting or by calling (586) 446-2440.