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Cleaning out your house while you're stuck at home? Not so fast -- bulk waste and yard trash are being suspended in many parts of the Quad-Cities

Cleaning out your house while you're stuck at home? Not so fast -- bulk waste and yard trash are being suspended in many parts of the Quad-Cities

The coronavirus pandemic has caused some changes to how curbside trash and recycling are being handled in the Quad-Cities.

Republic Services, which does waste and recycling collection for some area municipalities, including East Moline, Silvis and Carbon Cliff, recently announced a list of changes to how its employees collect waste and recycling, as a safety precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release.

“While we are working hard to ensure the highest quality customer service and minimal service disruption, the recent surge in residential waste and unique challenges we face require us to temporarily modify our service offerings to keep your community clean and safe,” the release states.

In a presentation to customers dated March 20, Republic estimated having more residential customers staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to a 30% increase in residential tonnage and disposal, at a cost to municipalities of approximately $2.15 per household per month.

To offset those costs, it recommended service changes, which include:

  • Only cart contents are being accepted. Drivers have been told not to leave their vehicles to collect anything not in a cart.
  • In areas without cart service, Republic will take only bagged trash. The bags can weigh up to 50 pounds.
  • The company is suspending yard and bulk waste pickups.
  • Customers should keep non-recyclable items out of their recycling containers. The release stated: “We may need to use alternative disposal methods if there are disruptions to recycling processing capabilities or if recycling contamination increases. That means some recycling could be sent into the waste stream because it is contaminated or cannot be processed because of shutdowns."

In Silvis, a citywide bulk pickup planned for April was postponed, James Grafton, city administrator, said.

An e-waste collection planned for later in April has also been postponed.

Both events will be rescheduled when possible.

In Moline, city employees handle waste pickup.

“Regular curbside collections of trash and recycling are continuing as usual,” Rodd Schick, Moline’s municipal services general manager and interim public works director, said. “For bulky waste collections, we are using machinery (loaders) to collect items whenever possible to reduce the amount of collecting by hand. When that can't be accomplished effectively, staff has rubber gloves, other PPE and hand sanitizer available to reduce their exposure.”

Rock Island has canceled bulk pickups, Randall Tweet, city manager, said. One of the city’s routes still requires the crew to pick up refuse by hand rather than with an automated lift.

“The crew has gloves and masks, and they follow the social distancing guidelines,” Tweet said.

Davenport is picking up waste earlier in the day and asks residents to have their bins on the curb by 6:30 a.m. Davenport crews carry or have access to personal protection equipment as a standard part of their toolkits.

Bettendorf said its waste service was operating as normal and crews also have access to personal protection equipment.

The Scott County Waste Commission also suspended its public hazardous material and e-waste drop offs, according to a post on its website dated March 20.

There were indications Wednesday that at least some of these agencies were also seeing increases in the amount of materials they were collecting.

Based on the available data, Rock Island has seen some increase, Michael Bartels, the city’s public works director, said. In the week of March 23 while people were dealing with the stay-at-home order and social distancing guidelines, the city collected 208 tons of refuse.

This was about a 6% increase over the week of March 2, which was before the restrictions or COVID-19 concerns, he said. In that earlier week, 196 tons were collected.

The total refuse collected in March by Rock Island was not available Wednesday, but would be within a few days, which would allow for a more detailed comparison, he said.

“I did check with drivers and they are noticing an increase in trash amounts,” Bartels said.

Bettendorf did not have numbers Wednesday, spokeswoman Lauran Haldeman said. Anecdotally, the city’s sanitation workers said they were collecting more. It was a slight increase in trash and a larger one for bulk collection.

Last week, the Waste Commission of Scott County averaged about five tons of extra recycling per day while trash collection was roughly the same, Kathy Morris, the commission’s executive director, said. As of Wednesday, this week appeared to be following the same trend.

Since people began staying home, Davenport has had an increase in tons taken to the landfill of about 10% to 20% depending on the day of the week, Nicole Gleason, the assistant city administrator, said Thursday morning. 

Moline did not have numbers available as of late Wednesday afternoon.

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Related to this story

St. Ambrose University has a public health program. The newspaper asked its faculty to weigh in on how people can support each other and the community during the pandemic. Here in full are the responses of Dr. Melissa Sharer, director of the Masters in Public Health Program at St. Ambrose University and Dr. Colleen Doak, professor in Epidemiology in the program. They provided them Thursday.

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