Work from home? You're probably making more trash
With more Columbus residents working from home than ever before, city officials are being forced to rethink how they haul away our waste.
What's happening: The city plans to allocate $16 million of its 2022 operating budget to purchase 44 new garbage trucks to keep up with demand. It currently has 159.
Why it matters: As a growing city, we were already producing more trash almost every year. Without additional investments, the city could struggle to keep collections timely and efficient.
- The pandemic not only caused a spike in overall tonnage — nearly 10% from 2019 to 2020 — but also appears to be changing the types of trash collected, Tim Swauger, the city's refuse administrator, tells Axios.
How it works: With less workers downtown, many public trash cans are sitting empty, Swauger says. But the waste we're wheeling from our homes to the curb is piling up.
- Now garbage trucks have to take more frequent trips to the landfill during their residential routes to empty out, which takes more time. A single truck typically services 900 homes.
- The extra vehicles will also allow for extra monitoring of illegal neighborhood dumping in-between weekly collections.
The intrigue: Swauger says the city has enough drivers for the new vehicles, but it could be 12-18 months before the ordered trucks are built and delivered due to supply chain issues.
What they're watching: 2021 is on pace for another year of above-average collection, though not quite to 2020 levels, which peaked to record highs — 25 to 30% more than normal — during spring lockdowns.
What's next: The city's operating budget, unveiled last month to City Council, is still just a proposal. Council members are expected to approve it in February 2022.
Meanwhile, the city continues to promote its curbside recycling program as an alternative to throwing items away.
- About 75% of the city's trash could be recycled, says Debbie Briner, spokesperson for the Department of Public Service.
- A "waste wizard" tool on the city's website can help — just type in your item to see if it's recyclable. Common items include steel cans, flattened cardboard boxes, newspapers and plastic and glass bottles.
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