Waste hauler chalks up service glitches to COVID-19

Republic Services had a rough year in 2020 like everyone else

DAVISON — City officials had questions for a representative from Republic Services at Monday’s city council meeting, after observing instances of large items not being picked up and trash left behind that spilled from containers during waste disposal.

Gary Hicks, municipality director for Republic Services, said two things can account for those issues – shortages the company experienced in 2020 during the COVID-18 shutdown and residents not bagging all their trash.

Hicks said 2020 was “a tough year” for the waste hauler and while he hates using COVID-19 as an excuse, the shutdown did have an effect on many aspects of the company’s ability to service the community – from workers off work with the virus to parts shortages for garbage trucks.

“Early on there was the question of does (COVID) live on paper or plastic bags…it was on the minds of the workers every day,” he said. “They are more comfortable now with the pandemic now… what’s acceptable, what not.”

Hicks said at one time the company was down 15 people due to COVID-19 and had to fly in workers from Republic Services in other states to help.

“It was a challenge this past summer just getting the trash collected,” said Hicks. “Also, in recycling and compost.”

Issues with large items not being picked up should be resolved, he said. During 2020 a lot of it had to do with pandemic related shortages, but now he said drivers should be calling for a second truck. Residents can also call Republic Services to let them know they’ll have a big item for pick up.

The problem of trash being spilled and left on the street is mostly an issue of residents not bagging their trash properly. Hicks reminds all customers of Republic that for the trucks with the mobile arms to work properly, trash inside the container must be in a tied bag. Loose trash could potentially spill and be left on the curbside or street.

Hicks addressed a concern by Councilman Chris Hinkley who said he was told he’d have to pay $17 a piece to have several small windows removed and disposed of, but Hicks said that should not be the case.

Republic Services, as a rule, doesn’t pick up windows or glass left out at curbside because it almost always breaks and ends up on the street or sidewalk, requiring the driver to sweep it up.

Hicks said if glass is taped so it won’t shatter and fall out of the pane, it can be picked up. Residents are allowed one free pickup weekly, but then get charged an additional $17 for any more items.

Mayor Tim Bishop said the service from Republic has been very good over the years, adding there have not been a huge number of cases.

“But we’ve had the Cadillac, we’re used to driving it, now it’s got a little engine knock,” said Bishop. “We’re used to great service. Now we hear of problems, kind of small, but we hear over and over it’s a problem.”

Hicks assured the council there have been zero bulk items left in the city the last three weeks and as of Feb. 1, he said Republic centralized all its routes in Genesee County. The move allowed the service to consolidate some of its routes and required changing some pick up days around the county.

“COVID brought it out that it was something that needed to be fixed,” Hicks said of the centralization of services. “It was a huge undertaking, we moved about 50,000 homes, but it’s gone really well, and we didn’t change Davison, Swartz Creek or the City of Flint’s pickup days.”

One more issue Hicks addressed was a concern by Councilman Chris Hinkley about what appears to be early start times for garbage pickup I the summer months, when he claims trucks are on his street as early as 6 a.m.

Hicks said Republic trucks should not be arriving in Davison before 7 a.m. and he added usually they don’t even leave Republic’s facility until almost 6:30 a.m. But, to be certain there is no early start, he has reiterated to drivers they are not to start garbage collection in the City of Davison before 7 a.m.