Opinion: Keep Our Garbage Services As They Are

Javier Baños

Baños was a candidate for Coral Gables City Commission in 2021 and currently sits on the City’s Budget Advisory Board.


It is garbage fee season in Coral Gables, the time when the City Beautiful graciously bestows upon all its residential property owners an invoice for the privilege of engaging in the most basic of government services: collecting our waste. Therefore, I thought it timely to share some of my thoughts on this topic.

This past July 7, 2021, the City Beautiful sponsored a City Commission Workshop on the topic of Solid Waste & Recycling. The event was well attended, providing a valuable insight on some of the nuances of the system that seamlessly eliminates the ugly in our lives, and tries to preserve the beauty of the neighborhoods.

However, although I will address other topics in the future, I would like to focus on the issue of green matter (plants, leaves, grass clippings) bulk collection from our garbage pits.

Commissioner Mena, and two other members of the Commission, seem to enthusiastically endorse the notion that this service should be ELIMINATED. Mena and the Mayor have both covered over their garbage pits, and today pay for their landscapers to haul away their green matter. They sing the praises of this panacea, and offer as a solution a $10 to $20 monthly reduction of our annual garbage fee to ameliorate the financial impact of this burden on our residents of this added costs on landscaping. 

Their logic stems from an apparently benevolent goal.  Commissioner Mena and the Mayor want to eliminate this service because the substantial monetary costs to the City endures to haul away green matter. In addition, it would reduce the potential for abuse due to the use of neighboring cities/areas of Coral Gables’ garbage pits to defray their own expenses of bulk collection.  

However, instead of using enforcement as a way to curtail abuse, the solution of Mena and the Mayor is to take away a City service that I frankly consider part of the very core of what the City must do for our residents. Our lush greenery produces a great deal of waste. 

Mena’s solution is to place IT ALL in my side yard until the gardener comes, and give me $20 for my trouble. 

To that I say, NO THANK YOU. Other than Police and Fire, garbage collection is the most prominent and omnipresent City service we all have come to appreciate and love as part of the creature comforts that are key to what it means to be a Coral Gables resident. 

As we will see, there is much room for improvement, but this solution deserves a long and painful death in some exploratory committee for boneheaded ideas.

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39 thoughts on “Opinion: Keep Our Garbage Services As They Are

  1. I have lived in the city for 29 years and can no longer afford the astronomical cost for this service. I cut my own lawn, so why should I be forced to pay extra for an incredibly unaffordable service? It has cost me literally tens of thousands of dollars for this, and I’m no longer able to afford it. I’m done with this rip off. Show me another city in the state of Florida who charges such an excessive rate. When for 10 bucks my neighbor’s landscaper grabs my fronds on his way out (when I have enough). When I cut my grass every other week, I may or may not have enough for him. Last year it cost me $160. Compare that to the tens of thousands of dollars taken from me that I could’ve invested! I’ll never get my money back and this assessment abuse needs to STOP NOW!

  2. the “pits” referred to are city of coral gables created. created by the clamshell buckets mounted on the city trucks. in the 50’s and 60’s, these were known as “trash piles”, before the city dug these unsightly “pits”. the city should be required to come to every home and deposit soil to fill the ugly city created “pits”, as they would require us to pay if we residents created such eyesores on the city owned swales.

  3. I agree with all regarding keeping the swales and trash collection. Additionally it helps maintain a healthy economy and not add to the unemployment rate.

  4. Do not get rid of swale trash collection. It is very useful. Not everyone has a lawn service that is willing to haul it away. Also there are more boxes now due to on line shopping. I use my pit on a regular basis. Having the availability of regular swale pick up encourages homeowners to do that extra trimming or pick up those fallen palm fronds etc. we live in a very lush tropical area and the downside is that there is green trash almost on a daily basis. We are not a concrete jungle city!!!!

  5. Dear Mr Baños I completely agreed with you, leave the green pick up the way it has been since 1984 when we move to CG, my gardeners ( which had been with us for the same amount of years) have no way of taking the amount of clippings of two weeks from my house.Im sure it will cost much more than that those famous 20.00 to get somebody to do it twice a month .
    I hope the comissioners and the major will come up eventually with better ideas
    Amelia Alvarez

  6. The only negative thing about the trash pits is the inconsiderate residents who toss their dog poop bags in them. I have been living in the Gables for ten years and found the pits to be a great perk of Gables living and want them to stay.

  7. I knew getting rid of the overnight pick-up trucks ordinance would eventually lead to getting rid of the trash pits.

  8. Not everyone has a landscape service that can haul away yard debris, even if you paid them. As others have said, our lush vegetation needs constant trimming so we generate a lot of yard “waste.” Keep things are they are. AND I wish there was a way to keep people from throwing things in the pits, like recyclable plastic and glass bottles, dog poop bags, recyclable cardboard, etc.

  9. Leave it alone! why taking away something that is working most of the times.
    Also I don’t have a gardener. We enjoy taking care of the lawn. What Am I supposed to do? This is not good news.

  10. Why are these elected officials trying to change what has been in place for so long? I thought elected officials were elected to look out for the residents interest. I guess not!!! We should vet who we elect as they clearly are not listening to the residents!!!

  11. Where did Mena and the Mayor get permission to cover over their swale pits? City property? I’m searching the City website now for this form… can’t seem to find it??? How about they deal with the traffic and over-development before messing with the residents of Coral Gables.

  12. Keep it the way it has been for the last 30+ years I have lived in “The City Beautiful”. Do not fix what’s not broken. It is insulting that a suggestion of $20 reduction will be given if the service is removed. This amount will not even cover the gas needed for the truck we’ll have to rent or the people we’ll have to hire to load it into the truck or the fee we’ll have to pay at a site that will allow us to discard the clippings, branches and other greenery. That is considering that you’ll find the gas (price going up), or the truck (Theyll be scarse as every one will be looking for one), or the people to load the truck (same as previous). Elected officers, you work for us, give us intelligent solutions not irisory ones! Keep the system the way it is, has worked for many years. Thanks.

  13. Please leave our lawn trash piles. Ours is full every week from palm tree debris, oak tree leaves etc. we would totally have to get rid of our landscaping. Our landscapers come every 2 weeks.
    I asked the woman who drives around in the little Coral Gables vehicle to inform people who use the piles for trash to leave notes explaining the law. She was horrified; said “I can’t do that”. What do they do?

  14. Agree with the author. This is part and parcel of the City’s persistent effort to deny services to its residents. I remember when the City was responsible for maintaining its City owned swales. The burden was then shunted into us to maintain the swales. Pretty soon, we’ll be maintaining the public canopy and taking our own trash cans to the pavement. All of our money is being spent Downtown. Folks, our sociopathic, narcicistic City leaders hate us!

  15. The system has worked over the course of many, many years; that’s why it exists now. It would work better if it were enforced more. Even so, for those who do their own yards and cut their own grass, and don’t own trucks, what are these people supposed to do? We pay more than most municipalities, yes, but we get more for it too. IF the City were to provide us a discount, that amount will far from cover the increased cost that landscapes will charge to haul the clippings/fronds/etc., away. I don’t mind schlepping out the “non-green” trash the night-before pick-up and put it out on pile. I absolutely don’t want to be tasked with “storing” my green-cuttings somewhere and then having to relocate that pile out to the front of my house the night before; that’d be horrendous.
    This issue keeps resurfacing every so-many-years because it’s one of those things where you will never reach consensus; you can’t please everyone all the time and you never will. This is one issue where the City might consider adding this question in a voters referendum someday and go with ‘majority rule’. I feel quite strongly that the ‘majority’ would like to keep things as they’ve been, – and that’s where I stand too!

  16. Don’t “fix” what is not broken. Fine the rule breakers instead. If you do your own garden what do these braniacs propose that we do?

  17. Totally agree with the author and also with Susan ‘s idea to have the City fine people that place items in the swales that are not garden and lawn waste. People that break the rules should be heavily fined and made to pay for it.

  18. I wanted to make CG my home for the rest of my life but couldn’t stand it and finally moved out after 5 years. The number one reason was the unsightly and ridiculous trash pit that was dumping ground for anything and everything. I was shocked when I first became aware of this backwards system and the way the city collects the trash like it’s 19th century. Good bye CG.

  19. The green collection is necessary to maintain city beautiful. The trees and beautiful landscape requires it. Leave it as is.

  20. I’m embarrassed when out-of-towners visit me and see public dumping. I can’t wrap my head around people feeling so entitled to dump in front of their homes. I didn’t realize I moved to Hialeah from Pinecrest. The agent did not show me my home on public dumping day. My landscaper takes away my waste. Let’s not forget about people throwing dog waste in the pits too. So disgusting.

  21. Leave the trash pickups exactly as they are. Cut the financial waste elsewhere (and there is plenty) and we will have ample funds to cover this service without any further increased fees .
    What is wrong with these elitist self serving personal agenda pushing people we choose to govern our city. ???

  22. What about residents that enjoy doing their own lawns or have to because of lower income issues? Let’s not remimd we are going to need trucks to do that. More trucks in the Gables?
    The other issue is the sneaky neighbor that drops their garbage in your pit to keep theirs clean right after bulk pickup. I will not be held responsible for that.
    It would be lovely for people with doggy poop to walk those baggies home to their own pits. Nothing more unpleasant than a rainbow of baggies in my pit. They are not cute no matter the vibrant colors, worse actually. Blend people, blend!

  23. Leave it as it is, the landscapers might not be in a position to haul the branches, etc

  24. It is a fact that Coral Gables picks up SIX TIMES the amount of our surrounding cities. This means that I am paying for my friends clippings who resides in Pinecrest on an acre lot. If you think your landscapers don’t dump their clippings from surrounding cities onto the trash pits in the Gables, you’re living under a rock. If we remain the status quo, our rates will escalate to $1500 per year.

  25. There is nothing beautiful about holes/asphalt patches in people’s front yards.
    There is nothing beautiful about decaying green matter every week in people’s front yard.
    There is nothing beautiful about non-green matter dumping in trash pits every week in front of people’s yards.
    There is nothing beautiful about having illegal dumping happening our city.
    There is nothing beautiful about neighbors having to look at, deal with, and in some cases call the city for enforcement on their fellow residents.

    There wont ever be enough code enforcement officers to curb this growing problem with over 17,000 houses in the city. We would have to increase our taxes and become a police state. Since a community we cannot follow the rules and the adding of 50 code officers is unaffordable then I applaud the commission and Mena for doing the HARD thing and brainstorming solutions to keep our city beautiful.

  26. Why don’t we dump these two instead that would be a better solution. CG sanitation fees are very high for sub par service at times. For every time your garbage or recyclable is left behind deduct $20 from your annual bill that is only fair way.

  27. I agree with the author. DON’T take this away. This is one of a few distinctive Coral Gables features that is worth WAY MORE than a $20 refund.

  28. Agree 100% have live here over 30 years and its not a problem that needs fixing

  29. Dear City Dutiful,
    I do not employ a “landscaper”.

    Please continue with Green Matter collection.

    Being able to garden in my yard has enabled me to stay healthy during the various Covid-19 surges.

  30. Not having to haul trash to a city dump is one of the benefits of living in Coral Gables – leave it as it is

  31. Instead of cancelling the green waste service (we call it jaws) just enforce the already in place rules…..NOTHING in the green waste BUT green waste. I see everything including toilets and all kinds of furniture and electronics….give tickets and make them pay…no exceptions…our code enforcement people don’t want to ticket people and they also don’t go around to all the areas nearly enough….IF you should cancel the service then reduce our bill by a lot more than $20.00, like reduce it by HALF! How about saving the green waste in the side yard until the night before your pickup and then put it out….when we lived in Hawaii (lots of green waste there too) that is how the did it and all followed the rules, it got picked up and yet we did not have green waste of any kind on the swale all week.
    If you don’t want to change the rules have jaws leave the pile IF there are any not allowed items on the pile and then have code enforcement go around the area the next day and ticket the offending people…..this is an easy solution if you don’t want to change the regulations….there are several solutions if you really want to change.

  32. Bad enough the quality of most services has gone down in the last 20 years. Now they want to take away one of the few distinctive services Gables still provides, and a great one. If they can not manage their budget it is certainly not because a few people drop off yard waste in some swales. Unbelievable!

  33. I agree with the author. The city should not shift the burden of yard waste removal from it to me. My lawn guy will just charge me for the haul away, so any savings from the city will just go to him. This is a basic city service that we all pay for and enjoy. This is a really, really, really bad idea.

  34. Please keep the trash pick up the same some landscapers don’t like hauling green mowed grass and clippings what elderly person could haul there clippings to the side or pay extra for land scape people to haul it away some do not like doing this . Solution the swales are like craters but use concrete to fill in the large holes instead of rocks. This has been going on for ions looking for a solution to this problem. Residents pay enough for trash recycle and garbage why pay extra for landscapers to haul it away? when some residents are on a fixed income or short on funds due to the pandemic.

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