JOLIET, Ill. (STMW/WBBM) – The free garbage can program in southwest suburban Joliet is facing a backlash.

City council members this week scratched their heads trying to come up with answers for residents who are losing alley pickup service and will have to start lugging the trash to the front curb next week.

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Council members Jan Quillman and Timothy Brophy said they’ve been flooded with calls and e-mails from unhappy constituents.

The allure of free Waste Management garbage and recycling carts, which won’t arrive until springtime, has apparently faded for many residents who face the prospect of carrying the trash through snow or rain or heat or gloom of night.

Everyone was “so excited about the new program,” Quillman said Tuesday at a council meeting, that the city failed to give enough consideration to elderly and disabled people, let alone those without driveways or sidewalks leading to the front curb.

The focus was never on curbside pickup,” Quillman said. “The focus was on freebies.”

Everyone in Joliet gets free garbage and recycling carts thanks in part to $519,500 in federal stimulus money that helps pay for the program, which both the city and Waste Management say will improve recycling rates. Waste Management is paying for most of the carts, which will go to about 40,000 Joliet households.

But the new 96-gallon carts require some clearance as they are lifted mechanically into the air before being emptied into Waste Management trucks. And, most city alleys are too small for the program.

About 4,000 Joliet households now have alley pickup.

Unfortunately, Brophy noted, many residents who get alley service in older neighborhoods don’t have the layout of a suburban home with a wide driveway or even a sidewalk leading to a front curb.

“They’re going to be going through 12 to 15 inches of snow,” Brophy said. “I don’t think that’s going to be feasible for some people.”

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Both Brophy and Quillman want the mandatory curbside pickup to be delayed until the spring, when the new garbage carts arrive.

But the city and Waste Management next week will begin requiring that most residents who now get alley pickup service take their garbage containers to the front curb.

City Manager Thomas Thanas called it an “educational process.”

Residents need to start changing their habits now, Thanas said, because once the carts arrive it will be too late. Waste Management trucks won’t be able to lift the new carts into the air without ripping down overhead electrical lines and other wires.

“There’s just not enough room in the alleys,” Thanas said.

Many residents with alley pickup, however, will continue to get the service if their alleys are deemed big enough to accommodate Waste Management trucks.

Meanwhile, Thanas said, there will be some tolerance for residents who are not quick to make the change to curbside pickup. The first response will be to put orange stickers on cans still in the alleys to remind residents that they need to start making the change.

“We’re not going to hit anybody over the head with a club if they don’t do it,” Thanas said. “We have a few months to get people acclimated.”

More information at

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(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. WBBM contributed to this report.)