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Worker shortage amid pandemic leads to trash collection woes

July 14, 2021 GMT

DENVER (AP) — A pre-pandemic shortage of licensed commercial drivers in the waste management industry has become worse, and now cities and companies are dealing with a shortage of workers to hoist trash into the trucks.

Workers in the solid-waste industry were considered essential workers as COVID-19 started to spread, but now there aren’t enough of them and many are likely looking for different lines of work or better pay, The Denver Post reported.

The shortages are occurring across the country and are leading to delays in pickups, particularly in recycling.

Denver is working to hire more sanitation workers after cutting its budget and letting vacancies go unfilled when the pandemic hit, said Nancy Kuhn, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

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The city provides trash and recycling collection services to 181,000 households and compost collection service to subscribers. Kuhn said Denver cut back on extra trash collection, which includes large items, from every four weeks to every eight weeks.

In June, the city received 1,738 calls about missed trash pickup and 760 about missed recycling pickups. Denver makes about 724,000 trash collections a month.

The solid waste industry is among those using signing bonuses as one way to lure back workers as businesses emerge from cutbacks because of the pandemic.