MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Many Memphis residents, including Mary Ann and Steve Cole, have been frustrated by recent delays in trash and outside-the-cart pickups.
“We never know when they’re going to come,” Mary Ann Cole said.
“We just wait,” Steve Cole said. “Where are we going to put the trash next? Pile it in the receptacles we have. We have a vacant house next door. I use theirs sometimes. One week I carried ours to our church dumpster.”
For weeks, WREG has been sharing stories like theirs.
“Everywhere in here there is something on a street,” Cordova’s Joesetter Hines said on May 29.
“This is a result of two weeks of trash, recycling and overflow that should’ve been picked up first week of May. Nothing has occurred. I’ve called every day,” Flora Childres said on May 14.
“I didn’t realize it was that bad all over the city,” Mary Ann Cole said after seeing WREG’s recent coverage.
In the past, city officials would send crews to the specific neighborhood we were covering, but they never addressed the bigger problem until this week.
Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen told city council Tuesdday they were taking action against contractor Waste Pro, which services about 20 percent of Memphis including Cordova.
“We have not paid them for several months of services,” McGowen said.
The city also put out a statement apologizing to residents and explaining trash volume has increased by 30 percent during the pandemic. They said they’re hiring additional contractors and asked for patience.
The Coles wish they heard from the city weeks ago.
“Why isn’t the mayor and city council being proactive then in saying ‘this is the problem, bear with us, we’re working on it,’ Mary Ann Cole said.
A city spokesperson said Thursday they are hearing about improvements in some areas of Cordova, but overall, they did not have any kind of timetable for when the issue will be fully resolved.
WREG also asked if city crews could take over the contracted pickup areas. Officials said that would not be possible but didn’t explain why.
WREG also received the following statement from Waste Pro:
“Like most cities and counties, we are experiencing dramatically higher volumes of residential waste, bulk waste and yard waste during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our frontline drivers and helpers are on the streets every day (including curfew hours) as we manage collections in the safest and most efficient way for our communities and our employees.
Our Memphis Division is in contact with the City’s solid waste leadership daily to review and update operational needs. Operationally, Waste Pro has made adjustments to move more equipment on the household trash routes in an effort to meet the increased demand. We are also pulling resources (ten additional trucks and drivers/helpers) from other markets to support this temporary situation. Additionally, we are working 6 days a week to keep up.
Delays are to be expected as the trucks fill up much faster than usual causing more travel time to the collection facilities to dump and return to continue routes. Specifically, a comparison from April 2019 to April 2020 shows residential waste, recycle, yard waste, bulky tons are up 35.4% and landfill trips up 33.26%. We were honored to be selected to serve the City when selected for a emergency service contract in 2019. At that time (and in our bid proposal) we operated 27 trucks and today operate 27 trucks, however it is clear that the almost one third waste increase is due to the pandemic.
We apologize for any inconvenience to residents and are proud to service the City of Memphis. We ask for patience until we can get caught up with the increased waste volumes.”