Trash bins. Photography by Renee Umsted.

Representatives from the city’s Department of Sanitation Services responded to complaints from the City Council Environment and Sustainability Committee related to delays in garbage and recycling collection.

The complaints, originating from Dallas residents, started after the service day change, which went into effect Dec. 5, 2022. Collection changed from a four-day schedule to a five-day schedule, affecting 180,000 people, or 56% of customers.

Sanitation staff told the committee at the Jan. 12 meeting that the intent of the change was to shorten the work day for crews and get trucks to the shop earlier in the day, allowing for more time to make equipment repairs.

Jerome Council, the director of Sanitation Services, says there was an increase in calls for missed garbage and recycling collections, especially in the first and second weeks after the change went into effect. The reasons for missed collections include drivers learning new routes, equipment availability issues, severe weather days and holiday disruptions.

Data presented at the meeting showed that Sanitation Services received over 3,600 calls reporting missed garbage pickup and over 2,200 calls reporting missed recycling collection during the two weeks after the new schedule was implemented.

Assistant Director of Sanitation Services Cliff Gillespie said the department was moved out of a service center located in the northeast part of town in 2009, though they haven’t found a definitive answer as to why that happened.

“Anecdotally, we hear that the neighborhood was not pleased with the sanitation equipment moving through their neighborhood, but it certainly would help our operations to be able to have some footprint there in the future,” Gillespie said.

Trucks that service neighbors in areas such as Lake Highlands and Lochwood currently have to drive from a service center across the city, battling morning traffic, to get to their routes.

Council said collections have recovered from the delays during late December, and crews are becoming more familiar with the updated routes.

But city council members said they have still been hearing from constituents about missed collections.

“I’m hoping that we will see regular, consistent service soon,” District 14 Council member Paul Ridley said. “I’m still receiving, even this week, notices from people whose trash has not been picked up on the scheduled day.”

District 13 City Council member Gay Donnell Willis says her office received 400 calls in three weeks reporting missed service.

Challenges with garbage and recycling collection yet to be solved revolve around collection in alleys, equipment shortages and staffing shortages.

Sanitation trucks are wider than more than half of the alleys in Dallas, and some alleys don’t qualify for collection because they don’t meet certain requirements, making collection difficult or impossible.

The city has to deal with a deficiency of automated trucks, which don’t require a person to stand outside the truck to help with collection. Problems arise with manual trucks when the weather is very hot or cold. In automated trucks, Sanitation employees can work in a climate-controlled environment.

District 11 City Council member Jaynie Schultz urged the department to engage communities when coming up with solutions to problems, specifically those related to trash collection on alleys, in the future.

Reports of missed collections can be made by calling 311 or submitted online.