The city of Fayetteville, which staffs its own recycling service instead of contracting with a private hauling company, has had to leave some curbside recycling uncollected in recent weeks because of a lack of drivers. And it’s not the only city in the area to struggle with providing direct recycling service for residents.
Around a dozen driver positions, or about a fifth of the collection crew, have been unfilled because of departing staff or injury, Fayetteville waste reduction manager Brian Pugh said last month. As a result, the remaining drivers have skipped some collection routes each week. Affected residents can try again the following week or take their recycling to the city’s many drop-off locations.
“The goal each day will be try to get as much as we can get, but we know we’re not going to be able to get all of it,” Fayetteville Environmental Director Peter Nierengarten told the Democrat-Gazette. “We’re asking for people’s patience.”
You can find these and other job openings at the city of Fayetteville online.
The problem highlights several unusual aspects of Fayetteville’s recycling. Most cities in Northwest Arkansas hire a private hauling company to handle both trash and recycling; Fayetteville is one of a handful of cities that provide their own service with their own employees instead.
This approach allows a city to handle recycling in ways that private haulers won’t, such as by picking up glass bottles curbside, as Fayetteville does, and providing customer service close by. Fayetteville’s approach also means it can collect and publish its own recycling data and run one of the region’s most ambitious overall recycling programs.
But an in-house program also comes with challenges. Fayetteville’s driver pay is significantly lower than many private transportation and waste collections companies offer, and the job is more physically demanding. City workers manually pick up recycling and separate each material at the curb to keep contamination low. Private haulers typically take the entire mixture of recyclables and use trucks with robotic arms for collection.
On top of these factors, when things go wrong, a city can’t lean on a larger organization to pick up the slack the way a company can. Siloam Springs, which provides its own pickup, has had to rely on its garbage trucks and residents’ own bins for recycling at several points this year due to breakdowns and equipment shortages.
Lincoln, another such town, is considering bids from private companies for its trash service this month. Mayor Doug Hutchens at a recent meeting said the city is having problems keeping trucks and drivers, especially with other major expenses.
“I think we need to outsource it,” he said, according to the Democrat-Gazette.