Citrus Countians have had lots of time on their hands while staying at home trying to keep safe from the coronavirus.
But you can only do so many jigsaw puzzles and TV binge-watching.
For many, quarantining was a perfect time to clear the dens and attics of junk (er … prized possessions). Not only that, but being at home creates more waste, especially if your home has turned into a daycare and the diapers pile up. And, of course, eating all those prepared dinners at home creates more cardboard throwaways.
In short, garbage haulers have been seeing curbside containers full to overflowing.
John Patton, with Beverly Hills Waste Management, can personally relate. His wife has been going through old boxes that have been unopened since they moved in.
It’s like that throughout his service area in Beverly Hills and Pine Ridge, he said.
“The guys on the truck will tell you that,” he said. “That also contributes to falling behind. In the past, you could do a whole route and not have to go to the landfill. But now, you might have to go to the landfill partway through your route because trucks fill up quicker.”
Excess waste is also costing the company in the pocketbook.
Patton said Beverly Hills Waste Management’s landfill deposit — which guarantees payment — increased $5,000 in July because of the extra loads.
County Solid Waste Director Henry Norris said commercial tonnage was down 20% during the height of the pandemic but residential tonnage increased to offset that decline.
“We’ve had a couple months (April and May) where tonnage was up 10% and a lot more visits by mom-and-pop trucks cleaning out their house,” he said.
Norris said commercial activity at the landfill started increasing in June with the partial opening up of the economy. Overall traffic flow in June was up 30% from last year.
“My personal opinion is that the self-haulers, the mom-and-pops, will remain a larger percentage of overall traffic and tonnage will eventually level off or go negative unless they get the economy started again.” he said.
Tracy Meehan, spokesperson for Waste Pro of Florida, said the country’s waste services industry has been “severely disrupted” by COVID-19.
“Essential frontline waste collection workers are putting their lives at risk at the curb every day,” she said. “Drivers and helpers are in short supply. Nationwide, many cities and counties are working with waste service providers to combine or reduce services on a temporary basis.”
Stay-at-home directives have increased residential waste volumes 15-40% in Waste Pro systems nationwide.
“Specifically, in the Citrus County area, we have seen curbside waste volume increase by 23% from March to date causing massive increases in our ability to maintain collection schedules,” Meehan said.
“With the stay-at-home orders in place, we noticed more waste curbside associated with clean-outs, organizational projects and homeowner do-it-yourself improvements,” she added.
The increase in tonnage has not required additional trips to the Citrus County landfill. However, it has resulted in an increase in disposal fees that Waste Pro pays to Citrus County, Meehan said.
Waste Pro employees, she added, “are on the job and will stay on the job and are thankful for our customer’s patience during these unprecedented times.”
Waste Pro has about 11,500 customers in Citrus County.