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Hauler staffing issues prompt yard waste pickup changes in Fairfax County

A refuse truck responds to trash pick (via Fairfax County)

Yard waste is piling up in Fairfax County, as a nationwide labor shortage in the hauling services industry has triggered collection delays that could potentially last weeks.

The Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services has made some temporary changes to its practices after recently warning customers, who make up about 10% of residents and businesses, to expect delays for the next several weeks.

“There is a tremendous amount of competition for drivers, which has an impact on our ability to recruit and retain,” DPWES spokesperson Sharon North said in an email. “Since COVID-19, the home delivery business has skyrocketed, often providing more attractive and lucrative trucking jobs in the private sector.”

Now, the county says it will allow solid waste service providers — both public and private — to collect trash and yard waste together if they are experiencing labor shortages that prevent them from completing routes in a timely manner.

“This temporary allowance can be used by both private haulers and county collective service providers if they choose based on their staff resources,” the county said in an announcement on Wednesday (Sept. 1).

The changes took effect last Tuesday (Aug. 31). The county also said it will review a requirement in mid-October that prevents combining recycling and yard waste hauling.

“[The] staffing shortages in the Solid Waste industry are happening in many municipalities across the country, not just in Fairfax County,” North wrote. “Even private solid waste/recycling haulers are struggling during these times.”

As of Friday (Sept. 3), the county had 13 vacancies for maintenance workers, heavy and motor equipment operators, and lead refuse operators. Hourly pay for positions with regular benefits ranges from $18.10 on average for regular maintenance workers to $29.95 on average for lead refuse operators.

North said in an Aug. 30 email that the county’s trash and recycling services have not been affected by the delays.

County collection customers are primarily located along the eastern border of Fairfax County. Most other residents and businesses receive hauling services from private companies.

Yard waste and trash will still end up in their same, separate downstream destinations.

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