Atlanta’s trash disposal service hasn’t exactly been getting rave reviews. Last year, residents filed several hundred complaints against the city’s municipal sanitation service, citing missed pick-ups that lasted for 11 days in some circumstances. Exacerbating the problem was the intense August heat. The combination of heat and exposure created an unholy stench as food waste and other organic matter began to decompose on people’s curbs and inside Atlanta’s dumpsters.
The city responded by saying that they were implementing a new garbage collection schedule and that the delays would be remedied soon. They also pointed to the fact that the city has to service 96,000 customers throughout Atlanta. Furthermore, the number of complaints reached a peak of approximately 900 in one day, which is a small fraction of the total number of residents.
This story highlights some of the challenges that face cities, as well as businesses, that provide waste collection services. In order to accomplish curbside trash pick-up, the service provider has to plan out routes that combine efficiency and speed. These routes also have to account for thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people throughout a given city.They also need a large capital investment for such things as dump trucks, waste management workers, and waste processing centers. Some cities also offer additional services, like roll off dumpsters or hazardous waste collection.
Its easy to take your weekly garbage collection for granted. Its even easier to forget just how much work goes into something that seems so simple. The dump truck comes around and picks up your trash bags, and that’s that. But that process is repeated thousands of times over on any given day. And its all carefully choreographed just to make sure everyone gets their trash picked up.
So it might be understandable that there were delays in Atlanta’s curbside pick-up. Perhaps the most impressive thing is that it affected so few people compared to the entire population of the city.