NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — The Omicron variant has jaded so many sanitation workers across the United States that some cities have had to slow or suspend garbage and recycling collections. Instead, it angers residents who are shocked by the government’s inability to perform this most basic function.
The slowdown has left recycling bins full of Christmas gift boxes and wrapping paper on the curbs in Nashville, trash bags piled up the streets of Philadelphia, and mowed grass, leaves and trees in Atlanta. Uncollected garden waste such as branches block the sidewalks.
“It’s just a shame,” said Madeleine Rubin of Jacksonville, Fla., where authorities have stopped recycling.
“I know they can find the money to do it if they want to,” she said. I will throw money at it.”
Cities like Atlanta, Nashville, and Louisville are so understaffed that they’ve temporarily stopped collecting recyclable bottles, cans, paper and plastic, yard waste, and oversized junk in favor of worse, smellier items. I am concentrating on something. Delays are more than an annoyance to residents, causing problems such as clogged storm drains and blocked sidewalks.
Nashville City Councilman Freddie O’Connell was as surprised as voters when he received notice that the city would stop recycling on the streets before Christmas.
“I was just dumbfounded that there was no alternative or backup plan,” he said. It transports recyclables to a central collection point because “there is no hotline for people with mobility impairments or those who cannot reliably access a vehicle.” In Nashville, understaffing exacerbated the problem, including an insufficient number of garbage trucks in operation and a contract with a bankrupt private garbage collector.
“It feels like a governance failure,” he added.
The garbage crisis is actually the third pandemic. First, he occurred in the spring of 2020 when COVID-19 took hold in the United States, and the problem resurfaced in the summer as the delta variant surged.
The North American Solid Waste Association warned government officials and garbage haulers in December to “plan now for staffing shortages.”
A highly contagious variant occurred just as Americans were generating tons of trash over the Christmas holidays. Combined with relatively low vaccination levels among frontline health workers, it makes for “the perfect storm of delays in collection,” the association’s executive director David Biderman said this week.
In some communities, up to a quarter of waste collection workers call in sick, Biderman said.
Garbage collection is just one of many fundamental services broken by omicron. In the United States, many teachers, firefighters, police officers, and transportation workers are out sick.
“We’re getting calls, emails, everything. It’s natural that people are frustrated,” said Atlanta City Councilman Liliana Bakhtiari.
Atlanta officials said Monday that due to a shortage of workers, they will collect recycling and yard waste “as much as our personnel will allow.”
The city of Los Angeles said delays in collecting recyclables could continue throughout the month.
In Louisville, Kentucky, sanitary workers have stopped picking up garbage from yards until further notice in early January. Residents can bring branches and clippings to his tree collection for Christmas.
In New York City, which boasts the world’s largest municipal health corps, about 2,000 of its 7,000 workers are out due to the latest round of coronavirus, while the rest clean up the backlog of waste. I work long hours for The city has not suspended services.
Harry Nespoli, president of the local union representing the city’s sanitation workers, said some had returned after quarantine, while others had tested positive for the virus.
In Philadelphia, sometimes called Filterdelphia According to Street Commissioner Carlton Williams, due to road conditions, about 10% to 15% of the 900 sanitation workers are out at all times, leading to delays in waste collection.
“If you’re short on staff, you can’t hire people to replace you,” he said. “We have to give them time to recover.”
Some local governments hire temporary workers or contract with private carriers to keep garbage from accumulating. Some offer signing bonuses, retention bonuses, or pay raises.
In Chattanooga, Tennessee, starting driver salaries increased more than 40% from just over $31,500 to $45,000.
This has allowed the city to resume recycling collection in November after stopping it in July and to continue regular collection despite the micron surge, spokesperson Mary Beth Ikard said.