If your eyes and nose over the summer (especially in June) sensed an atypical amount of overflowing City of Dallas trash bins—overfull curbside cans and recycling receptacles neglected on the prescribed pickup day or bulky trash rotting for months on end—it is not your imagination.

The City has been dealing with a sanitation worker shortage throughout the pandemic and into last summer, and sanitation officials say they are one step closer this week to getting the situation under control.

In a memo to the City Council earlier this week, Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata and Director of Sanitation Jay Council noted that the department’s new contractor A & Associates has almost fully replenished Sanitation’s labor force.

The City of Dallas Sanitation worker situation

Specifically, the department needs 170 workers every day to adequately conduct 250,000 weekly pickups. The workforce is at 95 percent now, thanks to improved recruitment for truck driver positions and a pay increase in August, the department says.

Hourly wages reportedly rose from $12.38 to $15. Eleven new drivers started work Sept. 27, 18 are in the offer/onboarding process, which can be “lengthy,” due to background checks, physical and driver exams and such.

Service ‘improved’ but situation still stinks 

While operations have significantly improved since August, bulk trash was particularly problematic in September, the department notes, requiring “additional assistance of contracted crews” and contributing to ongoing intermittent recycling collection delays.

“The Department is seeing a reduction in the number of missed collection service requests submitted to 3-1-1, attributable to these staffing improvements,” according to the update.

To back that up, the City provided data tracking missed service calls over a one-year span, seen in the charts below.

The fact that these are measured in increments of 10,000 is a good indicator of what they are dealing with here. Sanitation collects an average one million recycling, and another million trash bins, every month—the aforementioned 250,000 customers times four or five collections per month, they explain.)

So, for example, in September 2020, there were approximately one million garbage collection opportunities, and the City received a total 1,783 missed garbage collection complaints, which comes to 17.83 per 10,000 collection points, or .18% of those collection opportunities in September.

Below are charts for the same as it pertains to recycling and bulk trash.

“Sanitation remains committed to following through with the necessary changes to restore timely and reliable service to all customers,” the City staffers wrote in the memo. And they promise to continue to update the public.

This is a developing story, and the Advocate is working on getting data by zip code so we can better break down the situation for our Lake Highlands readers.