Customers are upset that trash and recycling hauler Republic Services has canceled or delayed pickup several times since November and recently told them that recycling pickup will be delayed indefinitely.
In a statement to Flagpole, Will Blanchetti, general manager for Atlanta North, blamed the situation on the pandemic.
“As COVID-19 case numbers have risen across the state, Republic Services has also experienced a recent increase in positive cases across our workforce in Athens,” Blanchetti said.
“The labor shortages experienced across many industries have had less of an impact for us locally. In fact, our headcount is at an all-time high. This week we temporarily suspended recycling, bulk and yard waste collections due to driver constraints with COVID-19. This allows us to prioritize trash collection for all of our customers. Unfortunately this latest COVID wave hit during the holiday period when we traditionally see an increase in waste from households, which increased delays.
“We will notify the community when staffing allows us to resume regular recycling, bulk and yard waste collection.”
Commissioners Mike Hamby and Jesse Houle said at the commission’s Jan. 4 meeting that Republic should be held accountable. “People are paying them to pick up the recycling,” Hamby said. “So whatever we need to do as a county to get the recycling picked up for these folks, that needs to happen.”
Blanchetti did not provide a timeline for restoring service. Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Director Suki Janssen said that her department has reached out to Republic because the suspension violates an ACC ordinance but has not heard back. While the government could revoke Republic’s franchise to operate in ACC for failing to provide recycling pickup as required by law, in the short term there is little Solid Waste can do, Janssen said.
“Quite frankly, for the last three years, we have seen poor performance by Republic in many areas in ACC,” she said. “ACCGov has very little control over the performance of the private haulers—we have allowed customers to control what type of service they get through choice.”
While residents in the “urban services district”—essentially, inside what were the city limits before unification—have their trash and recycling picked up by ACC (and pay extra for it), residents in the formerly unincorporated county have their choice of a private hauler. Janssen urged Republic customers to pick another provider, such as AAA Sanitation, Curbside Services, Jimmy Johnson or Waste Pro.
Several drop-off sites for recyclables are available as well. They’re located at the ACC landfill and outside the ACC jail, both off Lexington Road, the Danielsville Road and Jefferson Road fire stations, the Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials on College Avenue, the fire department maintenance depot in Winterville, Georgia Square Mall by the old movie theater and ACC Fleet Management on Newton Bridge Road.
The commission has periodically considered expanding ACC’s trash and recycling service to the entire county, but dropped the idea because of the cost of buying more trucks and pushback from private haulers, their customers and residents who like to save money by hauling their own trash to the landfill.
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