COVID-19 has caused unprecedented changes in all aspects of day-to-day life, which now include the management of waste removal services in San Dimas.
Green waste and recycling carts are temporarily being serviced bi-weekly as a way to handle the impacts of the coronavirus, such as a reduction in staff and an increase in trash volume.
Rate increases for the new year were also introduced to customers based on the cost of living increase and a recycling processing increase.
“I know it seems like everything has changed since COVID, and the one thing you can set your watch on was that your trash would be picked up just about the same time every week,” Teri Muse, Waste Management spokesperson for San Dimas, said at Tuesday’s virtual city council meeting. “Please know that this was a last resort measure to ensure that all trash is picked up weekly.”
The changes were effective as of Dec. 28, 2020, and Muse expressed hope the temporary schedule would not extend further than the end of January.
But returning to the normal schedule is completely dependent on how the next surge of the virus affects the company and its employees, she said.
“We are continuing to monitor the staffing situation and when we have a healthy stable workforce of at least 90% of our normal number of employees, we can resume weekly pickup of green waste and recycling,” Muse said.
Although precautionary measures against COVID-19 were implemented to ensure the health and safety of their employees, Waste Management was still affected by the Christmas surge, Muse said.
There were staffing issues prior to December, but Waste Management’s ability to shift drivers between various sites proved effective until COVID-19 hit all sites and there were no employees left to spare.
In addition to staffing shortages, there has been an increase in the amount of waste residents are disposing, Muse explained.
“Since COVID-19 stay-at-home orders started in March, San Dimas residents have put out 1,200 more bulky items than they did during the same time period in 2019,” Muse said. “All in all, since the pandemic hit, San Dimas residents have generated almost 3 million more pounds of trash than they did the year before.”
Rate increases began Jan. 1 for both residential regular curbside collection customers and residential senior curbside collection customers, according to a notice sent by Waste Management to San Dimas residents.
The 2021 price increases range from $1.40 to $1.88 for standard customers, depending on the level of service being provided. Seniors will have a reduced price increase, ranging from $0.98 to $1.32.
In addition to the 2021 increase, customers will also be charged two additional recycling adjustment fees.
The “retroactive” recycling fee, which is $.053 for regular customers and $0.37 for seniors, is temporary and will only be charged throughout 2021.
The second fee is a permanent increase of $0.64 for regular customers and $0.45 for seniors that will also begin in 2021.
Muse said the increase in price includes cost of living adjustments.
“While there may be delays in your recycling and green waste service, there has been no reduction in the amount of material that we are collecting or service that we are providing. We are still collecting all the material that you put out for pickup,” she added.
The San Dimas Public Works staff have worked closely with Waste Management to encourage the use of additional bags for recycling or green waste if a resident’s cart is full before the time of pickup, according to San Dimas City Manager Chris Constantin.
Waste Management will pick up any additional bags that are put out for recycling or green waste on their scheduled week, something which was not permitted before.
“We are still working with Waste Management to fully understand what changes need to occur based on the impacts of the pandemic,” Constantin added.
Although many members of the community seem very aware of the pandemic causing issues for small and large businesses alike, they claim that rate increases alongside service reductions are unfair. Some have gone as far as to question the validity of these changes being only temporary.
San Dimas resident Kim Lambrecht said providing only two-thirds of service at the same cost as full service, if not more with rate adjustments, will only lead to the lesser service becoming the norm and a premium service being offered at a higher price.
“If you are getting the same payment as before you cut service, why would you bring back full service?” Lambrecht said. “If they are going to take away something, they should compensate their customers … They need to offer some sort of rebate or bill credit to compensate their customers at a later date when the sickness rate has dropped, or this will just become the norm.”
However, Muse said although Waste Management understands why their customers may believe a refund or bill credit is warranted, there has been no reduction in services provided.
“Our rates are priced per month, not per service, and include all amenities such as bulky items, extra bag pickup, holiday tree pickup, sharps containers and used battery pickups,” Muse said. “All the services included in your monthly rate are still being provided during this time.”
Waste Management continues to meet weekly with San Dimas city staff to provide updates on staffing and resolutions to any issues that may come up.
“Believe me, we do not want to continue this schedule one day longer than we have to,” Muse said.