Brush and bulky trash pickup is backed up in part because people are staying home, starting projects and taking care of yard work.
According to city solid waste crews, requests for curbside collection of bulky waste in March and April increased from 62 requests last year to 492 this year. At the same time, the number of residents coming to the city of Waco landfill to dispose of brush from yard work and bulky trash from home projects has increased tenfold, Solid Waste Services Director Chuck Dowdell said.
“There are a lot of people that had to shelter in place, and … they decided to do projects,” Dowdell said. “I didn’t know everyone in the city was going to do that.”
According to the city of Waco website, residents are allowed one brush pile pickup every other week, when green yard waste carts are picked up. Brush piles cannot be any bigger than 4-by-4-by-4 feet and cannot contain limbs larger than 3 inches in diameter. Anything larger must be hauled to the landfill.
Personal vehicles need to be weighed before and after unloading under state law, and they have to be unloaded by hand.
“We would normally have 10 to 15 cars per day,” Dowdell said. “That would be what I would call your small pickup trucks and trailers, and now it’s hundreds per day. It’s a 10- or 15-fold increase of the customers coming in, and those are the smaller variety, not the commercial.”
Registered residential garbage trucks now bypass the scale house altogether in an effort to make more space for people in personal vehicles looking to get rid of brush and debris, but cars have to line up at a greater distance than they normally would to comply with social distancing while they wait for their turn to use the site’s scale.
“Some people don’t like it. Some people get mad, and I completely understand it,” Dowdell said. “I don’t like waiting in line. Who does? But there’s just nothing else we can do.”
Dowdell said delays were up to more than 2 hours before officials decided to have registered trucks skip the line.
“It’s just the time of year that people do cutting and all of their larger maintenance on their yards,” Dowdell said. “We’ve got people who’ve never been there before. They have no idea what the rules are.”
Spotters direct people, but some customers get frustrated and throw their waste away in the wrong area, which takes up more staff time to sort out and clean up.
“Hundreds of people, hundreds more than we normally see, show up at our scale house,” Dowdell said.
Some private facilities have closed, and people have come from out of town to dispose of their debris, he said.
Nick Ebertz, residential operations coordinator for the solid waste department, said he started noticing the increase in requests for curbside pickup about three weeks ago.
“A lot of people are putting a 4-by-4 pile out like they’re supposed to, but they’re putting three or four of them out, and that’s against the rules,” Ebertz said.
Crews are being a bit more lenient about trash pickup rules, overlooking an overflowing bin here or a trash bag set on the ground there as people have to dispose of more trash than usual. About half of Waco’s 48,000 households receiving trash service fully follow the rules in any given week, Ebertz said.
Residents can dispose of brush or bulky trash at the Cobbs Recycling Center, 2021 N. 44th St., or the city of Waco landfill at 1624 Hannah Hill Road. Drop off at both locations requires proof of residency. Residents can call 299-2612 to have bulky items or brush picked up.