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Waste collection industry struggles with staff shortages

Caroline Champlin Aug 4, 2021
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Accumulated trash awaiting pickup is seen in a residential area in Illinois. Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Waste collection industry struggles with staff shortages

Caroline Champlin Aug 4, 2021
Heard on:
Accumulated trash awaiting pickup is seen in a residential area in Illinois. Tim Boyle/Getty Images
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The garbage company Waste Connections reports quarterly earnings later today. The company, with headquarters in Texas and Ontario, Canada, is one of many in the industry finding itself short on help.

It’s snake season in Shreveport, Louisiana, and the reptiles are loving all the bulk trash lingering on curbs for weeks now: tires, dressers, and fridges.

“Every day we’re getting a call on snake calls … these bulk pick-ups are literally getting out of hand,” said Councilwoman Tabatha Taylor speaking at a recent meeting. Shreveport can’t find enough people to haul away the snaky trash.

David Biderman, CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America, said staff shortages go way beyond Louisiana. 

“It has spread and now is affecting both local governments and private sector waste collection throughout the United States,” he said.

The job isn’t sexy, Biderman admitted, and loading trash in traffic is actually quite dangerous.

“When I tell people that collecting garbage is more dangerous than being a firefighter or police officer, they look at me like I can’t be right,” he said.

Some trash companies are boosting benefits and wages. Biderman said that’s helping, and he’s hopeful consumption – and the trash that comes with it – will level off this fall.

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