Metro trash collectors say extended hours, more labor should help mitigate at-home waste surge

Posted at 6:10 AM, Jul 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-31 08:33:25-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a residential waste surge in Nashville, meaning trash day is likely not the day your garbage will be picked up this week.

Sanitation workers around the country are losing the uphill battle.

According to Red River Waste Services -- which is Metro Nashville's main residential trash collector -- in April, the first full month of the city's Safer At Home Order, residential waste weighed in at 9,015 tons, an increase of 36 tons per-day over last year. By mid-July, things were worse. Two weeks in a row, Red River reported an increase of more than 40 tons a day.

On Thursday, Metro Public Works, which collects residential trash in 20% of Davidson County, announced it took over Red River routes in districts 7, 8 and 9 to improve service.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented some unique challenges to waste collection in Nashville, in terms of increased tonnage of materials and driver and mechanic shortages," said Sharon Smith, Public Works Assistant Director. "We’re seeing this happen all across the country, and we’re working diligently with our contractors to address these challenges as they become more acute."

This week, the one transfer station on Freightliner Drive utilized for all Metro waste announced it would stay open one hour later until 6 p.m. A spokesperson for Red River said this will help collectors because it will allow them to pickup trash later into the day.

Increased trash is not the only issue leading to the delays. Nashville trash collectors have contracted COVID-19. Red River said Tuesday that eight drivers are out due to COVID-19, four with confirmed cases, two with symptoms and two others are taking care of family with the virus. A spokesperson said to account for the absences, Red River hosted two job fairs this week and asked haulers from Huntsville to help in Nashville.

Residents can help alleviate some of the problem by paying close attention to what goes in the trash. The Public Works Conveinence Centers were closed at the start of the pandemic, leading many people to throw out items that are accepted in trash bins. The convenience centers have reopened and accept items like furniture, appliances, mattresses, carpet, and do-it-yourself construction waste.