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Old furniture, appliances, debris from home remodeling and large tree branches—these are items that are too large to fit into a curbside cart or container and are known as bulky waste. When a resident puts bulky waste on the curb, the municipality or the contracted waste hauler often is charged with collecting it.

Every municipality and waste hauler has its own method for handling bulky waste. Municipalities often offer a certain amount of bulky waste collection with the sanitation fee that is included in a resident’s monthly bill. When the amount of bulky waste surpasses a certain number of cubic yards, municipalities begin to charge more. This method has worked for Key West, Florida, and for Macon-Bibb County, Georgia.


Macon-Bibb County is a consolidated government formed in 2014 by the Georgia city of Macon and surrounding Bibb County. It serves about 50,000 residents in Georgia. When Kevin Barkley, director of the solid waste department, took over the department, he decided Macon-Bibb County should be responsible for bulk collection services.

“It all depends on what you have in your contract with your provider, but I found municipalities do a better job with bulk collection,” Barkley explains. “It’s hard to price, [haulers] want to make it really limited, and you have to have a constant rate for that service or a higher rate. It’s difficult to manage, I feel, if a private hauler is doing it.”

Bulk items included in Macon-Bibb County’s services are large yard waste items, such as tree limbs that must be cut down to a yard in length and a certain diameter; vining material and other items that cannot be contained; furniture; mattresses; and toys.

Barkley says 60 to 70 percent of residents have a bulky waste item on the curb weekly, but the amount a resident uses the service depends on the season and location. “In the fall, we see an increase of yard bulk waste and, in spring with tax returns, we see an increase of toys and furniture,” Barkley says. “That’s why it’s hard to contract out.”

The type of bulky items, Barkley says, also depends on what part of the municipality a resident lives in. “We usually see tree limbs and that type of material in the more wooded parts of our area. In the more inner city and rental properties, we see furniture and toys.”

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Macon-Bibb County sees an increase in plastic toys, such as sun-damaged pools and playhouses, toward the end of summer, he says.

Bulk collection was a part of the city’s and county’s former services before consolidation. The county formerly limited bulky items to 2 cubic yards to be picked up every other week from the curb. If a resident left out more than that, Barkley says the hauler would “just leave it.”

Macon-Bibb County includes bulk collection in its monthly sanitation fee. It charges residents $20 per month for garbage, contained yard waste, bulk waste and every-other-week recycling services.

Residents must arrange collection of large piles, Barkley says. If the pile exceeds the 2-cubic-yard limit, they must pay $20 per additional 4 cubic yards.

Macon-Bibb County crews use 25- to 32-yard rear-loaders by McNeilus, Dodge Center, Minnesota, and clam shells grapples to load the bulk items into the trucks.

Barkley says the clam shells “help pick up the material, especially when there’s large quantities.”

The municipality recovers clean yard waste, sending it to a local company that grinds the material and hauls it to a pulping mill to be used as a fuel supplement.

“I’m glad they’re here in town so we have an option,” Barkley says.

Other materials are sent to Walker Road landfill, which is owned by Macon-Bibb County.

For bulky waste that needs a scheduled pickup, Macon-Bibb County has a work order system called SeeClickFix, New Haven, Connecticut. When residents call in to schedule a pick up, Macon-Bibb puts the request into the work order system. SeeClickFix has an app residents can use to see when the pickup is scheduled and when it occurred.

Two of the biggest mistakes residents make regarding bulk collection, Barkley says, are putting out tree limbs that aren’t properly reduced in size and construction and demolition (C&D) debris.

Crews in Key West, Florida, use a grapple to pick up bulk waste and place it in the collection truck.
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“For a resident, tree limbs and C&D are the same thing,” he says, “but in the solid waste industry, they aren’t.”

To help prevent residents from making mistakes, Macon-Bibb County uses its website, www.maconbibb.us, to post information. It also is working on a new pamphlet that will explain what materials are considered bulky waste, how the county collects it and what special handling fees may apply.


Key West, Florida, started its collection contract with Houston-based Waste Management (WM) in 1995. According to Dee Dee Green, solid waste, recycling, education outreach and Keep Key West Beautiful coordinator, bulk collection has been a part of the deal since the contract started. Like Macon-Bibb County, there is no additional cost to residents for bulky waste collection, but commercial customers are charged by the yard.

“The only time a homeowner is charged is if they cut down a large tree and it’s too large to be placed in yard waste collection,” Green says. “It’s considered bulky waste. Every yard is $20.”

Yard waste for commercial customers and large tree limbs from residents are considered open-market items that can be picked up by any hauler residents or commercial customers choose, but usually residents either let the service that cut the tree down take it or call WM to pick it up.

The rate for bulk collection is included in the residents’ annual non-ad valorem garbage tax. “Non-ad valorem means that no matter what size the home is, the garbage tax is the same,” she says. Key West residents pay $305.63 per year, which is used to pay WM $841 per month to pick up garbage, including bulky waste.

The collection rate decreased in 2016 but remained the same in 2017. This is because, Green says, the rate depends on fuel prices. “Our hauling contract and garbage fees are all tied to the fuel pricing index,” she says. “Everything we dispose of has to go to the mainland. It’s a 250-mile trip, wherever it goes. Our hauling contracts are tied to fuel prices because of that.”

Twenty-one 80,000-pound trucks leave the transfer station in Key West per day with garbage, yard waste, recycling and scrap metal. Monroe County, where Key West is located, has three transfer stations and five service providers.

“Last year, with the price of fuel going down, our hauling costs went down, so we went to the board when the budget came and lowered our tip fees and tax fees,” Green says. “This year, everything stayed the same, so we stayed the same.”

Bulky waste can be any item that is too large to fit in a curbside container.
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Between 8,400 and 11,000 customers use Key West’s bulk collection services, with most of them being residential customers, while 30 to 40 percent are commercial customers or residents with large trees. The municipality considers any items that are too large for a cart or container, such as items from a home remodel (doors, shelves, toilets and a sink, for example), furniture and large appliances, as bulky waste. Bulky waste collection is once per week, with the most common item collected being mattresses.

If WM sees a bulky item during a collection run, the crew member is supposed to make note of it and pick it up during bulky waste collection. Green says the city is working on having that process automated because “now, it could sit there for weeks if no one reports it.”

Crews use a Lightning Loader grapple truck by Petersen, Lake Wales, Florida, to pick up the bulky waste. “They just pull up and pick everything up (with the grapple), then sweep up anything that’s too small to get picked up,” Green says.

Once the material is picked up, it is all sorted at a transfer station. Municipal solid waste (MSW) is sent to a waste-to-energy facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, or to Renewable Energy Facility No. 2 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Appliances and scrap metal, which make up the majority of the bulky waste, are sent to a scrapyard.

The most common mistake some residents make is putting bulk material on the curb and failing to make a request for bulk pickup. To help educate residents, a member of the Code Compliance Department crew will leave a tag or note directing the resident in question to call to schedule a bulky waste pickup.

For certain areas or for what Green calls a “common junk pile,” code compliance sends a request to WM directly. “Sometimes we have a corner where there isn’t a home and within three days, you’ll see a large pile dumped there,” Green explains. Before sending the request, Code Compliance tries to find the culprit. If found, the responsible party is fined and has to pay the cleanup fee. If Code Compliance can’t find the culprit, the department calls WM to take care of the situation.

Despite bulky waste’s special needs, Barkley says it’s a necessary service. “A lot of people need bulk collection services in one way or another,” he says. “So, it’s convincing everyone that it’s not just about the garbage cart, that everyone has large items that won’t fit in the cart. We want to provide those services for them, but we have to do it in a manageable way so that we can provide a daily service and get to all of our customers.”

The author is an editor with Waste Today magazine and can be contacted at hcrisan@gie.net.