With a labor shortage in the city’s Solid Waste Management department, Denver has a trash problem on its hands.
Between January 1 and February 14, Denver residents complained to 311 and the Utilities Online Portal 8,191 times about missed waste collections.
That number includes customers who reported a missed collection after the city changed its pickup schedule on Jan. 3 and/or customers who called multiple times and/or those who forgot to put out their carts on time, according to Department of Transportation and Infrastructure spokesperson Nancy Kuhn.
On its worst days, DOTI is missing as many as 3,000 of the 180,000 households it serves, leaving them waiting for trash, compost and/or recycling to be picked up, Kuhn explained. In most cases, the department is able to play catch up within 24 to 48 hours and has all of Friday available for missed pickups.
Some neighborhoods are being hit worse — or are complaining more — than others. While 3,476 of the calls were not attributed to a neighborhood, Central Park topped the list of missed pickup gripes at 219. That was followed by Congress Park at 186, Gateway – Green Valley Ranch at 176, South Park Hill at 135, Washington Park at 134, North Park Hill at 129, Virginia Village at 126 and Belcaro at 124.
The Central Business District, on the other hand, proved to be the least dissatisfied with pickups. The neighborhood sent just one compost collection complaint in the new year.
In total, there were 4,114 complaints about missed trash collection, 2,445 about recycling, 825 about compost, and 806 about extra services.
Last week, Kuhn explained to Denverite how the department is addressing the issue. “We’re continuing to try to ramp up staffing levels in our Solid Waste Management Division. That division is looking to fill 29 of its 131 driver positions, offering $2,500 signing bonuses. Also, acknowledging the value of employees that have worked diligently throughout the pandemic, DOTI initiated competitive pay increases last year to current drivers based on total years of experience using a commercial driver’s license.”