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Picking Up Garbage in a Pandemic

Flickr Creative Commons/David Hilowitz

Despite the pandemic, it's business as usual for the workers that pick up Peoria's--and Washington's--trash. "It's nice to be in an industry that's really needed. It's our time to step up," said Eric Shangraw, spokesman for PDC Co., the firm with the largest single city contract--over $7 million annually--to pick up trash at over 38,000 Peoria homes. Not only is garbage being picked up on its regular schedule during the coronavirus outbreak but there's more of it, said Shangraw. "We've seen an increase in residential garbage," he said, noting that PDC estimates there's been an average of an additional five pounds of garbage per household during the outbreak. "We're picking up everything we can," said Shangraw, adding that PDC is now picking up landscape waste in addition to weekly garbage removal. During the outbreak, PDC is asking customers not to set out bulky items such as a couch or mattress for removal. Concerns that such items might carry the coronavirus and endanger drivers has led to the decision, he said. Picking up the large items at this time could also affect scheduling, said Shangraw, who praised the efforts of the operators of the nearly 300 PDC trucks in use across central Illinois. "Drivers go about their business with their gloves and safety glasses. They know all about personal protective equipment. We've received compliments for what our drivers are doing," he said. Shangraw said PDC hasn't suffered any virus incidents to date. In April, PDC also started picking up garbage at 5,500 homes in the city of Washington. "There was concern over starting a contract in the middle of a pandemic but we didn't miss a beat," he said. When Illinois announced shelter-in-place restrictions last month, PDC dispatched its customer service team to work out of their homes, said Shangraw. Scott Perkins, the customer service supervisor at the company's Peoria office, said the change has worked out well. "Working from home is a huge benefit. The upside is that I think it results in the service being more productive," said Perkins. A single father, Perkins said being at home also gives him the opportunity to spend more time with his disabled son now home from school. While residential refuse has picked up during the outbreak, PDC has seen its commercial and industrial business decline drastically, said Shangraw. On the recycling front, the price of cardboard has increased due to the rise in online purchases made during the outbreak. That's created a bigger market for cardboard boxes, he said.

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