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Residents turn out for trash choices

SUWANEE - Texas and Arizona, Gwinnett residents seem to agree, do a better job of collecting the trash.

With systems that take many more than the five recyclables that Gwinnett residents can put on the curb and cities that compost yard waste, some locals who have lived elsewhere question why Gwinnett is so far behind.

"The service has been poor, you're limited in what you can pick up and it's relatively expensive," Richard Gomrick said. "It's been a pet peeve of mine."

That's why Gomrick was one of about 15 people to come to a community forum Thursday to discuss solid waste disposal in the future.

Now, eight companies pick up garbage and recyclables in zones across Gwinnett. Under new proposals, those companies could be limited to a maximum of one or two per zone, reducing the number of trucks that go through subdivisions. Currently, 80 percent of the county's ZIP codes have six or more companies collecting their trash.

But some trash haulers who attended the community meeting said those changes could put them out of business.

Limits on providers could bankrupt smaller companies or keep them out of the market entirely, some providers said.

Connie Wiggins, the director of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful, said that is not the group's intent. She is spearheading the study, which could result in major changes to the trash collection system by 2009.

"Many people think garbage collection isn't a very big issue," Wiggins said. "It impacts safety, health and cleanliness."

Wiggins presented three plans, one of which was meant to decrease costs to residents and another intended to decrease the number of collectors. A third combined the options.

Some changes could include more recyclables - as many as 30 items could be collected under the third plan - and prices that would change based on the amount of garbage collected.

Doug Schwendy, who attended the meeting, said his main concern is reducing the trucks that cause noise and visual pollution on the streets. He also would like to see a system whereby recyclables could be sorted out of regular trash.

Nancy Chandler, a member of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful, said she was pleased with responses from county residents, particularly those who were in favor of mandatory pickup. Wiggins said about 20,000 residents do not have garbage service.

The meetings will continue throughout the month.