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Baltimore recycling pick-up moves bi-weekly; DPW looking to open community drop-off sites

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jan 18, 2022

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — Recycling is piling up along Baltimore streets as the city moves to bi-weekly pickup because of severe staffing shortages.

Tuesday, Federal Hill restaurant owner Nikki Stevens was out front of her business straightening up their boxes and boxes of recycling that should have been picked up last week.

“What we can do is just make it neat and put it in place. It’s just still better if everything is on schedule,” said Stevens, owner of Bodhi Federal Hill.

Like normal, she set their recycling out for pick up last Friday but Department of Public Works crews never came.

They said they were starting a new bi-weekly pick up schedule this week but didn’t mention anything about not collecting on Friday.
“it doesn’t look presentable to my store and I don’t know what to do,” said Stevens.

Now because she’s below North Avenue, it will be another 10 days.

Neighborhoods north of North Avenue are on week A of the alternating schedule, which started on January 18. Neighborhoods south of North Avenue are on week B, starting January 25.

The change is to offset the severe staffing shortages from the COVID-19 surge.

“Over the last few weeks, we saw more than 37% of our workforce out, up to about 55 ,more than half of our workforce out on any given day,” said Jason Mitchell, DPW director.

Even before the pandemic, they struggled to fill vacancies, as the work is labor-intensive. Add that with winter weather requiring staff move to snowplow routes, and it’s been very difficult to sustain routine operations.

Mitchell said they’ve tried hiring contractors but everyone is dealing with similar issues.

“We pay an inordinate amount of property taxes in the city of Baltimore, twice any other location in the state. Curbside recycling collection is a basic city service that the city should be providing,” said Councilman Eric Costello.

While Costello understands the struggles, he wants to see improved communication so recycling isn’t just sitting out for days on end, because not only is it bad for curb appeal, it’s bad for the environment.

He said the city landfill is set to hit capacity in five years and officials don’t have the $100 million put together yet to expand it.

“Recycling collection reduces the amount of trash that we bring to the landfill which, in essence, will expand the amount of time we have to continue to use the landfill before we need to expand its capacity,” said Costello.

In between pick-ups, residents who are able can drop off recycling at DPW centers across the city. They are also finalizing locations for bi-weekly community drop-off sites, which were in place in 2020 when recycling pick up was canceled for similar reasons.

“During your week that you have recycling, we’ll have containers on the opposite side. So for example, all the routes under A are being dealt with now so routes under B will have drop-off containers,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell wants to stabilize their staffing numbers before moving back to weekly recycling pick-up. There’s no timeline for that yet.