Trash Removal in the Covid Era

We’re staying home more so it would make sense that we would create more trash, 25% more according to an estimate by the trade group, Solid Waste Association of North America. In Alpharetta, Georgia, for example,  one worker there said he used to pick up about 17 or 18 tons of trash a day, now it is 22. In fact some of the bins overflow and despite robotic arms can be hard to pick up upsetting some trash workers who may need to pick up what falls and because of the virus are particularly concerned.  The virus also is behind the fact that offices tend to be emptier than they normally are and those bins are not very full. Somehow the way trash removal is set up it is not usually possible to reshuffle routes and workers. One problem is that some routes may be done by subcontractors which city sanitation departments cannot reschedule in the same way. Another is that in many localities particularly in the East, alleys behind buildings are too narrow for many trucks and specially designed trucks are used to remove trash there.  If these new patterns continue, then changes will have to be made. They will entail shorter days, shorter routes and will then all be  more manageable.  Trash workers say that the upside for them is that people are now beginning to realize that what they do is a hard and dirty job. They suspect that being home more means they are more likely to see the trash trucks, be more aware of trash removal. As a sanitation worker in Georgia put it, “the world would stop if we stopped picking up.” Indeed sanitation workers are like first responders, nurses and doctors and the army of delivery people, those who make our adjustments to the virus that much easier. They ought to be on our list of those we are grateful for.

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