Areas see significant increase in garbage production after Safer at Home order

Posted at 5:52 PM, Apr 21, 2020

KENOSHA — Several Public Works Departments are seeing a significant increase in garbage production since Gov. Tony Evers' Safer at Home Order went into effect in March.

The City of Kenosha says they've seen a 20 percent increase in garbage production since March.

"We've added 350 tons of garbage to ten guys over 13 days," Keir Powell, Superintendent of the Kenosha Waste and Recycling Division, said.

Powell says the 350 tons can be attributed to several factors related to the Stay at Home Order. Schools, businesses, restaurants, and bars often have a private company collect the trash made there. With all of those places closed, people working from home and ordering take out, families are creating more of that trash at home.

Plus, people are using their extra time to be productive and start their spring cleaning.

Garbage pick-up increases during Safer at Home order

"It's an opportunity to clean out the basement," Powell said. "We deal with spring cleaning. I've seen many garages where you can't get a car in there. Maybe now, they want to get the car in the garage. When you're home and have that added time, there are all kinds of different things you can do, like yard work. We're seeing more yard waste on the curb also."

Kenosha isn't the only area to see an increase.

CityGarbage tonnage increase
Q1 2019 v. Q1 2020
Percent increase (Compared to 2019)April tonnage increase to-date (Percent increase)
Milwaukee2,700 tons7%
Kenosha537 tons8.90%350 tons (20%)
Waukesha371 tons12.80%114 tons (16.6%)
Racine265 tons4.82%
Sheboygan207 tons8.10%82.77 tons (19.5%)
Wauwatosa207 tons8.63%145.43 tons (24.4%)

For a city of roughly 100,000, the Kenosha Waste and Recycling Division has ten people picking up garbage five days a week, and they're one of two cities in the state who still pick up by hand. Sheboygan and Kenosha will have automated garbage trucks by the end of the year.

Lifting more garbage is taking its toll on employees.

"Everything," Matt Johnson, an employee for 12 years, said. "Shoulders, back, legs, you feel it everywhere. You're just fatigued. When you get fatigued, that's when injuries occur."

"When I get home, I can barely do anything," Darrell Russell, an employee for close to 15 years, said. "I lay down and take a nap for three or four hours, and then sometimes, it carries over into the weekend. I can't do much on the weekend because I'm tired, and then it's Monday, and I have to start all over."

This kind of strenuous work has Powell concerned for the well-being of his workers.

"I'm losing sleep over this because I know the physical toll this is taking on our staff," Powell said. "We do see a lot of work-related injuries, and some guys are working as the walking wounded. Worker's compensation claims are significant. We spend about $200,000 per year on doctor bills. That's torn rotator cuffs, herniated disks, lacerations. We have a staff member here right now that completely severed his Achilles tendon from a piece of glass in a bag. He's permanently, partially disabled from it."

Powell says he appreciates the praise from the community. He says many community members thank the workers while they're out on their routes, but Powell understands, it can be frustrating if you see your garbage isn't picked up.

"Be patient," Powell said. "It might be something that's too heavy for you to drag out, it's probably going to be too heavy for me to put on this truck. If you have some stuff that you can wait to get rid of, just wait until another day or something to get rid of it."

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