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Sanitation crews in overdrive during COVID-19 crisis

Posted at 7:39 PM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 20:39:50-04

As people across Acadiana are staying home, that means more trash is being produced.

In the City of Lafayette and the unincorporated areas of Lafayette Parish, Republic Services is not only seeing overflowing cans, but more yard waste.

Crews are trying to keep up while responding to an overwhelming number of calls.

Over the last month, Republic Services is now answering more than 100 calls per day when they typically get 20 to 30 calls. Lafayette Consolidated Government has answered around 190 customers.

Now, Republic Services is asking for the public's help as their crews are in overdrive. They're working to make sure they do not miss any collections throughout the COVID crisis.

"Many of these trucks typically cycle through a traditional route and maybe have to go to a disposal facility one or two times. Now, you're doubling that in many cases," said Chuck LaGrange, Republic Services Municipal Relationship Manager.

The company is asking for patience. They're seeing a 50% increase of waste, meaning it takes longer to pick up.

Lately, it's common to see trash and recycle bins overflowing or debris not bagged.

"Don't overload these bags. Keep them to about 50 pounds or less. As far as limbs and tree branches, keep those to about four feet in length," LaGrange said.

Lafayette resident Leslie Francis knows the work these crews are doing is essential.

"They're sacrificing their life to do this. If a day comes and they can't pick that stuff up, it's going to pile up and we'll have something worse than coronavirus," Francis said.

The employees are wearing masks, protective glasses and latex gloves underneath their work gloves. The trucks are stocked with sanitizer and are completely disinfected before and after each shift.

Though difficult, the team practices social distancing by having someone ride on the back of the truck.

Bryant Riggs, a supervisor at Republic Services said, "Us practicing social distancing during our safety meetings and also having the drivers follow instructions on what we're telling them on route is really helping everyone stay safe."

Another issue Republic Services is facing is some customers are putting regular trash in their recycle bins. They say don't do that because once that happens, the recycling is then contaminated. Instead, order a second bin. They have trash and recycle bins available. All you have to do is call.

Republic is providing:

Additional PTO time for employees and their families who are diagnosed with COVID-19 so that they don't burn through normal PTO hours.

Free meals, lunches each day to front line workers.

Republic has committed over $20M to support our front line teams and the communities we serve. Starting this week Republic is giving front line employees $100 gift cards every other week to spend on restaurants, groceries, essential supplies etc. Allowing this money to be spent in the communities we serve by providing much-needed customers to local businesses is our way of saying thank you for allowing us to be a part of the community.