Government benefits impacting trash pickup
Government benefits individuals have been receiving to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things, are being blamed for erratic garbage pickup in Philadelphia.
Garbage pickup is a mess, officials have said, and aldermen let Waste Pro know last week in person they want it fixed now.
City leaders said they are consistently receiving complaints about garbage pickup problems.
Waste Pro managers met with the board during their regular Tuesday, Sept. 7, meeting.
The managers met in response to a letter they received from City Attorney Robert Thomas demanding answers.
“I would say during the last six months, there has been inconsistent pickups for whatever reason,” Mayor James A. Young said. “I noticed in the last few days, you have stepped up your game. We wanted to know from your standpoint, what is going on.”
Waste Pro representatives blamed mechanical problems and people not showing up for work as their key issues.
“If I had 20 new trucks, it would make my life a lot easier,” said residential operations manager Stan Stewart. “But that is above my paygrade. I ask for them every year. I got one new one in the last five years.
“The last month and a half, we have had a lot of mechanical issues. These trucks stop and go every day. If a truck says it has 100,000 miles on it, realistically it has 200,000 on it with the stop and go.”
Stewart said a plan to send an extra truck during the day to speed up pickups did not go so well because the truck blew an engine while en route.
Waste Pro did have a new rental truck in Philadelphia for a few months and all agreed it helped. Stewart said that truck had not been meant to stay in Philadelphia and now it is gone.
He added that the government benefits people have been receiving because of the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in some employees not showing up for work.
“All this money people are getting to sit at home has affected me tremendously,” Stewart said. “My truck leaves the yard (from Meridian) at 4:30, going to Philadelphia. (Recently) they didn’t leave until 8:30 because of guys not showing up for work. I had to call around to find people. I did some moving around and got a crew up here.”
Stewart said similar problems have been happening in other cities where Waste Pro picks up the garbage.
Aldermen Justin Clearman and Shaun Seales both said communications between the company and its customers is a big problem.
Waste Pro is contracted with the city to pick up the garbage twice a week with routes running on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Garbage cans are supposed to be on the street by 7 a.m. If the garbage doesn’t get picked up, people don’t know what to do.
Stewart said if the garbage did not get picked up on the day it was supposed to, the company (usually) comes back to get it the next day. He added he usually doesn’t know if a route has not been completed until the end of the day.
“I think people would be fairly understanding if they knew what was going on,” Clearman said, adding that the majority of the calls he gets from constituents are garbage pickup complaints.
Thomas agreed communications was a problem but added it was more than that.
“You have people rolling their garbage out Tuesday morning, and they come home in the evening and it’s still sitting there,” Thomas said. “They don’t know you are coming back Wednesday. They move it back and it doesn’t get picked up when you do come.”
Thomas said the responsibility of getting the problem corrected belonged to the board.
“I understand everything they said,” Thomas said. “I want you (the board) to understand that we are charging the citizens of Philadelphia for pickup twice a week. As a board, you have a duty to either get this straightened or make a decision to do something different. Your taxpayers are paying you to get it picked up, and you are paying them, and it ain’t happening. This started in January.”
The mayor and board said they would continue to monitor the situation.