Frequently Asked Questions





Blue Bag and Other Recycling Programs
What is the Blue Bag Program? How does it work?
How often should Blue Bags be put out for pick-up? 
Should paper be bagged separately and then put in the Blue Bag?
Do we need to rinse out all food and beverage containers?
Do bottle caps and  labels need to be removed?
Are plastic oil containers recyclable?
How can I recycle household batteries?
What about bears and raccoons getting into the Blue Bags?
What if I put a Blue Bag out, but don’t receive one in return?
Are the Blue Bags recycled after collection?
Why use bags instead of cans or totes for recyclables?
Does money from recyclables pay for the cost of recycling programs?
Who will pay for the Blue Bags in the future?
What is California Redemption Value?

Company Information
How many tons of garbage does South Tahoe Refuse collect annually?
How many households does the company serve? 
How long has South Tahoe Refuse served the Lake Tahoe basin?
How many trucks do you have in the fleet?
How many employees work at South Tahoe Refuse?
Does STR offer any grants or payment programs to help ease the cost burden on customers?
Why does South Lake Tahoe have mandatory garbage removal?
Why do we have to have our garbage out so early?

Household Hazardous Waste
Is there a fee to drop off hazardous waste or universal waste?
How can I safely dispose of home health care needles and other sharps?

Rate Information
How are rates determined? 
What factors affect rate increases or decreases?
What happens if I don’t pay my residential garbage bill? 

Resource Recovery Facility
What is the Resource Recovery Facility (RRF)?
What materials are accepted at the RRF?





Blue Bag and Other Recycling Programs

What is the Blue Bag program? How does it work?
Blue Bags are a curbside recycling program, allowing a mix of recyclables in one Blue Bag - significantly increasing the recovery of recyclable materials and minimizing vehicle emissions by using one truck to collect all the materials.

How often should Blue Bags be put out for pick-up? 
Blue Bags can be placed out any day you have regular trash collection. The most efficient way to use the program is to wait until a bag is almost full. Nevada customers can put one Blue Bag out for each can of garbage service. 

Should paper be bagged separately and then put in the Blue Bag?
It’s not necessary to bag paper separately.

Do we need to rinse out all food and beverage containers?
Scrape or wipe out food residue, use as little water as possible. We all want  to conserve water resources, too.

Do bottle caps and  labels need to be removed?
No, new technology has eliminated the old rules about things like caps and labels, which are now removed through automation during processing. 

Are plastic oil containers recyclable?
No, oil residue will contaminate the other plastics when baled.

How can I recycle household batteries?
Household batteries should not be placed in the trash. Store household batteries in a zip lock bag and, when half full, place that bag in your Blue Bag. 

What about bears and raccoons getting into the Blue Bags?
Place Blue Bags in a separate, secured trash can or animal resistant enclosure. This program is used all around the Lake Tahoe basin with minimal problems with wildlife. However, as we all know, it is important to place all trash out the morning of pickup, secured against animals, or to purchase an animal-resistant container or enclosure. Full Blue Bags can be placed in these enclosures and new Blue Bags will be left there in exchange. 

What if I put a Blue Bag out, but don’t receive one in return?
Please call our office at (530) 541-5105 and leave your name and address. Collection route personnel will leave Blue Bags on your next pickup day, or you can come by the office and pickup a bag or two. 

Are the Blue Bags recycled after collection?
Yes, the Blue Bags are recycled along with other plastic bags.

Why use bags instead of cans or totes for recyclables?
Blue Bag recycling is used throughout the Lake Tahoe basin for several reasons: 
Separate cans or totes require separate routes for pickup, which creates additional vehicle emissions and traffic in our community. 
Blue Bags are picked up each week during the normal route, so residents, visitors and vacation rentals can participate in the program on their usual collection day. 
Providing cans or totes would require additional trucks, drivers and routes. This would increase our operating costs, which could also affect customer rates. However, this is an alternative that can be implemented by the local jurisdictions in the future if it proves to be a more efficient and earth-friendly system. 

Does money from recyclables pay for the cost of recycling programs?
All of the revenues from the scrap value and California Redemption Value of all the materials we recycle are put back into the budget to offset the cost of our recycling programs. Unfortunately, even with these revenues, the operational costs of sorting, baling and transporting the various materials to be re-processed into useful products exceeds the revenues received. While recycling some materials, like aluminum and plastic, are offset by the revenues, most materials, like paper and metals, are not and some materials, like tires, electronics, wood, asphalt and concrete, are expensive to recycle.  

Who will pay for the Blue Bags in the future?
This will be determined by our local agencies. Because California residents have unlimited, mandatory service and Nevada residents pay-per-can, there may be differences in the programs that each agency chooses. Blue Bags could be available for purchase at local stores by residents who want to continue to participate or Blue Bags could continue to be provided at curbside, with the cost coming from the agencies or from recycling revenues included in STR’s annual budget. 

What is California Redemption Value?
California Redemption Value, referred to as CRV, is the money collected for almost all beverage containers in California, except for milk and wine containers. Customers pay between 5 cents and 10 cents at all California stores for the beverage container itself, on top of the cost of the beverage. That money is sent from the stores to the state agency CalRecycle. This is commonly referred to as a “bottle bill.” 

The money that is paid to customers at the Recycling Center and other buy-back centers in California is a full reimbursement of the money paid at the store, passed back from the state. Bottle bills can lead to the misconception that there is a significant value to the beverage containers themselves when, in effect, what customers pay at the store subsidizes recycling efforts. There is no bottle bill in Nevada, therefore, there is no similar fund of money from the state to subsidize recycling programs.

The disconnect between the two states on the bottle bill leads to confusion and frustration by our customers. At STR, we believe that it is important to keep sight of the original goal of encouraging recycling among community members. Our Recycling Center employees work hard to assist all of our customers in recycling both their beverage containers and other household recyclables while complying with the regulations from the California state CRV program.



Company Information

How many tons of garbage does South Tahoe Refuse collect annually?
South Tahoe Refuse collects over 100,000 tons of garbage and yard waste each year. More than 60 percent of that is recycled. The company continually strives to increase its recycling rate, now set at 75 percent by California by the year 2020.

How many households does the company serve? 
South Tahoe Refuse serves approximately 20,000 residential homes and complexes in South Lake Tahoe and roughly 800 businesses. 

How long has South Tahoe Refuse served the Lake Tahoe basin?
The families of South Tahoe Refuse has been serving the area since 1962.

How many trucks do you have in the fleet?
We have 10 garbage collection trucks (the big orange trucks), 5 small fork-lift trucks, 7 trucks that pickup the big debris boxes and compactors and that deliver recyclables to market, and 6 trucks that go to the landfill. 

How many employees work at South Tahoe Refuse?
South Tahoe Refuse employs 110 full-time employees. 

Does STR offer any grants or payment programs to help ease the cost burden on customers?
STR offers a qualified senior rate, based on income. Call the office at 541-5105 for more information. 

Why does South Lake Tahoe have mandatory garbage removal?
Mandatory garbage removal for residential properties was instituted in the early seventies in the City of South Lake Tahoe and the east slope portion of unincorporated El Dorado County. This was implemented to reduce the significant amount of illegal dumping found in the South Lake Tahoe area. The garbage bill is the responsibility of the property owner, therefore, renters have garbage collection provided and landlords can increase the rent accordingly. In order to balance the requirement, collection was also made unlimited, so that homeowners and landlords can rely on a consistent cost each quarter no matter how much garbage is placed out for pickup.  

Why do we have to have our garbage out so early?
Historically residents have been asked to have their garbage and Blue Bags out by 5:00 a.m. We have changed the start time for residential pickup to begin at 7:00 a.m. This was done to encourage residents to put their garbage and Blue Bags out the morning of pickup to reduce conflicts with wildlife. 

Safety on these routes is still our number one priority. Our routes are structured so that collection trucks are on major streets and near schools while vehicle and pedestrian traffic is light. We strive to minimize conflicts with residents leaving for work, parents loading pre-schoolers into cars and children walking to the bus stops.

The early routes also assure that collection services are efficient with low visibility to our visitors and that commercial properties are serviced before they’re blocked by delivery trucks and customer vehicles. Commercial garbage collection begins at 5:00 a.m.

Timing of pickup in any particular neighborhood changes during different seasons as residents come and go. Having your garbage out by 7:00 a.m. assures that we can provide the service our customers deserve. We appreciate your cooperation.



Household Hazardous Waste

Is there a fee to drop off hazardous waste or universal waste?
Residents can drop hazardous waste off at the South Lake Tahoe Transfer Station on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. There is no charge for most items, here (hyperlink) is a list of all permitted items.

How can I safely dispose of home health care needles and other sharps?
Residents can bring home health care needles, secured in puncture resistant containers, to the STR Transfer Station Monday through Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sharps are shipped out with a medical waste service company. There is no charge for this service. This state certified program is not available to businesses.
Sharps containers must be:
Rigid and puncture resistant (i.e., plastic orange juice or laundry detergent containers),
Leak proof,
Securely sealed without contact to sharps materials (duct tape works, no zip-lock bags),
Clearly marked “biohazard” (use a red marking pen). 
It is illegal to place home generated sharps in the garbage, recycling or green waste containers in California. 
 



Rate Information

How are rates determined? 
Rates for services are set on an annual basis for the franchised areas by the respective elected Board of Supervisors, Board of Commissioners and City Council. Agency staff  review the costs and revenues of the company every three years. This is done under the guidelines of a Rate Review Manual adopted by each of the agencies. In the intervening two years, the Company is provided with a cost of living increase based on a garbage collection industry index. This process is also provided for in the franchise agreements. 

What factors affect rate increases or decreases?
Many business factors affect service rates, including, changes in cost of operations such as, landfill charges, fuel expense, labor expense, addition of new programs and capital improvements. Costs of operation are offset to some degree by revenues from recyclables.  

What happens if I don’t pay my residential garbage bill? 
As of April 30th each year, El Dorado County residential customers whose accounts are 90 days past due and City residential customers whose accounts are 180 days past due are subject to a lien against their property.  We send two past due letters and a final past due certified letter.  We accept payments up to the end of August and if not received by then the bill will be placed on the property tax rolls after a hearing by the local agency. 



Resource Recovery Facility

What is the Resource Recovery Facility (RRF)?
The RRF is a new facility dedicated to recycling organic waste from residential and commercial customers. Residential yard waste, including pine needles and other vegetation, is collected along with Blue Bags and trash. The yard waste is separated at our facility and recycled into mulch and compost.  Materials are also used for soil erosion projects. Contractors and other businesses bring in wood and vegetation from development projects around town. The RRF also accepts vegetative waste from agency fuels reduction projects aimed at reducing the threat of wildfire in our community. With yard waste handled separately, we are also increasing our efficiency in capturing recyclables from the rest of the waste stream as we strive to meet our 75 percent recycling goal. 

What materials are accepted at the RRF?
Initially pine needles, other vegetation and most types of milled wood are accepted at the RRF. Additional organic materials may be added to the mix. These materials are used for local revegetation projects and for composting at regional facilities.




Services
Contact us 530.541.5105
Photo by:  Jennifer Ward, Customer Service Representative