Dallas’ new garbage collection and recycling schedule has resulted in more complaints from residents, and the city’s problems with on-time pickup a month after the change are expected to continue into the new year.
Links to drivers‘ lack of knowledge of new routes, lack of trucks and fewer temporary workers, says Jay Council, the city’s health director, this could be the end January before most customers pick up the trash on time.
The city provides garbage collection, recycling, and bulky waste services to approximately 246,000 homes in Dallas. Shortages of workers and severe weather have resulted in late collections from at least 2020, and a new five-day collection schedule has been introduced to help with this.
The Council said the implementation of the new schedule, which went into effect Dec. 5 and forced at least 56% of customers to take out the trash on the new days, was “a little rough.” Not only have workers missed the streets, he said, but a shortage of trucks due to supply chain issues and freezing weather during the Christmas week has led to a reduction in the number of temporary workers.
“It was weeks before we realized there were streets we missed and we could have done better,” Council said. “But overall it’s definitely a work schedule that’s much more sustainable for the department in the long run, and the longer we work on it, the more efficient and methodical we’ll be.”
He noted neighborhoods in Oak Cliff in south Dallas among the areas with the most missed fees, but overall, complaints about the city’s fees regarding health fees have quadrupled since the schedule changed.
Residents filed 2,899 missed trash and recycling complaints in November, according to City 311 data Tuesday. In December, this figure was 12,223 people.
“I just want my trash picked up on time,” said Tee Swift, 25, who lives on Audrey Street in South Dallas. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.
He said his trash pickup days had changed from Tuesday to Thursday, but his trash hadn’t been picked up for at least two weeks. He said that when he notified the city a week ago about the loss, he was told that the case would be taken away next week, but this is not so. According to him, the garbage is still lying in his garage.
“We didn’t have any problems until they changed days,” he said.
The city has added Wednesdays to its garbage collection schedule, increasing collections to every weekday instead of four days a week.
In August 2021, the city agreed to a five-year, $54 million deal to hire a new temporary employment agency to help pick up waste on time after a previous supplier failed to provide enough workers.
The city has over 200 drivers, but low wages have led to a shortage of drivers. The city rate is now $20 an hour, but as of summer 2021 it was $16.50 an hour. At the time, this was $3.50 less than the local industry standard and $13.50 less per hour that a private sector garbage or garbage truck driver could earn.
The new Monday-Friday collection schedule is expected to reduce the daily number of households from 62,500 to 50,000 homes per day. The average working day of assemblers will be eight hours. The council said employees used to work until 12 noon.
“Because our equipment is very limited right now, will we achieve all of these goals? No, we are not,” he said. “But there is potential to achieve this if we can ever bring our equipment to a higher quality state.”
He said the city has 30 new trucks that are “in various stages of the delivery process.”
He said the city has been ordering new trucks since fall 2021 and may not receive them until December 2023.