Trash haulers seeing more waste during stay home, stay safe order

Published: Apr. 2, 2020 at 4:47 AM EDT
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Trash haulers across the state report Vermonters are putting out exponentially more waste amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Companies collecting garbage say they're grappling with ways to keep their employees safe, but they say that's only possible if customers do their part.

Since the 'stay home, stay safe' order went into effect, Myers Waste & Recycling, which serves thousands of residents and businesses throughout Northern Vermont, says it's noticed the piles outside houses and apartments are larger.

Because the Chittenden Solid Waste District closed all but its Williston location, more people are now dropping off their trash at Myers Colchester facility.

"Our drivers are concerned for their safety and well-being," says Myers' Joe Sinagra

Haulers are taking special care to wear gloves and sanitize trucks. The company requests its customers to wipe down their trash cans, ensure all the waste is contained in bags, and stay away from the haulers.

"In the past, we would certainly take trash from our customers at the last minute or if we'd see them rushing out from their front porch. Now, it's a little bit harder because of social distancing," says Sinagra.

Sinagra says the story is much different at commercial establishments like restaurants and hotels which are putting out far less waste.

"The takeout and delivery stuff actually produces more trash per order because we're packaging items that we generally wouldn't package because people would come and dine in, but the volume is so much less that we're in traffic of people," says Shane Bissonette, the co-owner of Al's French Frys.

Myers usually picks up Al's French Frys garbage, compost and recycling every day. Now, the hauler only retrieves their trash twice a week and the co-owner says he may cut that down further.

The Department of Environmental Conservation's Solid Waste Program is observing these trash trends statewide. That's why officials are asking residents to avoid throwing out bulky materials like couches, tires and yard debris like leaves and limit their trips to facilities.

"We're asking people to delay spring cleanouts," said the DEC's Josh Kelly. "We typically have household hazardous waste collection events happen this time of year, and also just having them clean up their yards. Those three things can wait."

Despite the changes in trash collection and disposal protocols, the Agency of Natural Resources says it's still on track to enforce the Universal Recycling Law starting July 1, when residents will be required to separate their food scraps from other waste.