Unless you live in Nashville, New York City, or certain parts of Washington, you might not know garbage is piling up in the streets. Our modern society relies on curbside garbage and recycling services, so it's alarming to see this happening in multiple cities across the nation.
Prior to the 1930s, people dug holes in their backyards to bury their trash and used razor blades were dropped into the bathroom wall through a slot. Now, it seems like people might need to go back to burying their trash if they can't take regular trips to the dump.
What's causing garbage pileups?
There are several reasons garbage is piling up across the nation, and it's not the same for every city. Although, all of the reasons are ultimately rooted in the coronavirus pandemic.
In New York, sanitation workers are quitting or getting fired for not accepting the vaccine mandates that have been applied to their jobs. As a result, garbage is piling up on the streets of Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Philadelphia and Atlanta are experiencing the same problem and although services have not been suspended, there just aren't enough workers to pick up all the trash.
Sanitation workers are on strike in California
In Chula Vista, California, sanitation workers went on strike in December 2021, demanding a better labor contract, according to NBC 7 San Diego. About three hundred workers went on strike because of a lack of safe working conditions during the pandemic.
Although garbage is still being picked up, albeit slowly, recycling and yard waste collection services have been suspended. Businesses are seeing the worst of it since commercial services are prioritizing pickup for hospitals and other companies that deal with public health. Residents have been told they can take their trash to the local dump for free as long as they provide proof of residency.
Sanitation workers in Kent, WA, supported the workers in Chula Vista/San Diego by going on strike for a few days in the middle of January 2022.
Some businesses are upset that trash has been piling up right in front of their establishments, including some grocers and restaurants. That doesn't help business, especially restaurants that have outdoor dining.
It might be a good time for business owners to install solid vinyl fencing to enclose their outdoor dining area - at least enough to block the view and smell of the trash. Installing a USA made vinyl fence is a good way to create a better view and support local business.
Yard waste and recycling services are being suspended
In addition to New York, several cities have also suspended yard waste and recycling services. For example, Nashville, TN residents are no longer able to get recycling pickup, so they're throwing all recycling into the trash.
Red River Waste Solutions, the organization responsible for 60% of Nashville's waste, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy back in October 2021. Their fleet of trucks are in bad shape, deteriorating rapidly, and they can't afford to fix them. The company is also experiencing a severe staff shortage.
There is a silver lining to the lack of recycling services
A lack of recycling services isn't as bad as it sounds, considering the majority of recycled materials end up in the landfill anyway. Most people don't know that most of what they drop into the recycle bin isn't actually recyclable, including plastic.
NPR did a special on the lie of recycling and outed the big oil companies for misleading the public. When people started realizing plastic waste was a huge problem, the oil companies launched a PR campaign promising that plastic was recyclable. This allowed them to continue producing new plastic materials without public concern.
The truth is, in theory, plastic can be recycled. However, it's too costly and almost never happens. All those yogurt cups, strawberry containers, and other plastic items that get picked up by the recycle company are sent straight to a landfill.
While it's not exactly the ideal scenario, knowing the truth about recycling is a relief because there's no need to worry about throwing recyclables into the trash.
Will the trash problem ever be resolved?
It seems idealistic to say the trash problem will be resolved soon. It doesn't look like it's going to get any better anytime soon. It might be a wise move for everyone to start reducing the amount of trash they produce and get ready to possibly need to bury trash or take regular trips to the dump.
Things may turn around, but it's better to be prepared than be caught off guard.