Worker shortages causing delays with garbage, recycling, yard waste pick up in Virginia

In Northern Virginia, yard waste is piling up in some neighborhoods. People are frustrated as they wait for green bins brimming with brush to get picked up. 

Neighbors in Fairfax County say it’s really inconvenient and causing a mess.

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"One of our neighbors – she has like probably like five or six bags out and they didn’t pick it up and then it rained so the bags start ripping opening and then leaves start flooding down the street and going into the gutters," said Ron Myers, Fairfax County Resident.

"The leaves are going to start to fall and we’re going to have 20 or 30 bags of yard waste every week to put out so we’d like to know when they’re going to pick it up, if they’re going to pick it up," said Larry Reppert, Fairfax County Resident.

John Kellas, Fairfax County Deputy Director of Public Works, says the Solid Waste Management Program (SWMP) is down 25 percent of their crews which is slowing down collection causing delays.

"We’re really experiencing a labor shortage," said Kellas. "There’s a big struggle out there in the country right now for CDL drivers. We’re all competing on the same CDL drivers and the labor on the back of the truck."

 It is important to note; the county collects solid waste for only 10% of its residents. Other people use private haulers who are also experiencing driver shortages.

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Kellas says they are now allowing people to mix and mingle yard waste with household trash. Why? Well, typically they’re collected separately, but putting it together is one less trip through a neighborhood which is helpful due to not having enough employees.

FOX 5’s Sierra Fox asked Kellas, "How much longer do you see this problem persisting? Is it until you guys are able to hire more workers?

 He responded, "We’re working more on recruitment and we’re also bringing in some outside contractors to assist us right now to help us get through it."

Kellas adds he has never seen the staffing shortage and issues get this bad during his entire 30-year career. Fairfax County residents say they need to figure out a solution sooner rather than later.

"COVID hit them hard – I understand that – and you have Amazon and UPS that are probably offering more money than riding on a trash truck and so I understand that, but at some point, they’re going to have to figure it out. It’s a service we’re paying for and we’re just not getting," said Reppert.

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"It’s inconvenient for parking as well because you’re used to putting it out in the morning and then coming home in the evening and the trash cans are gone or empty so you can move them, but now when you have to leave them out two or three days in a row or the leaf bags start piling up on the street – you have no place to park," said Myers.

 Last year in Fairfax County, yard waste collection was stopped and they don’t want to do that this year.

Why is it getting left behind more so than trash and recycling? Kellas says trash is their top priority for pick up since that could become a health issue and raise a stink. Next is recycling then lastly, yard waste since it’s grass and brush.

This is a nationwide issue and anyone interested in becoming a worker can reach out to the department.