ST. LOUIS — The trash problem in the City of St. Louis has gotten so bad that residents may no longer be getting weekly trash pickups. The city is now picking up trash on weekends to catch up.
It has been a long, hot, and disgusting summer in city alleys where most residents dump their trash, with dumpsters frequently overfilling, city-wide.
City officials, including Mayor Tishuara Jones, are asking for patience, posting on social media that more routes are being picked up.
More and more city residents say that’s not good enough.
A reporter with the Post-Dispatch “tweeted” a video of a mess she passed while walking her dog Monday morning, saying the mess had been there for weeks. Trash was stacked on top and around multiple dumpsters.
In May, city officials held a news conference announcing the return of home recycling service and a new data-driven garbage collection plan with the areas that generate the most garbage seeing more frequent trash pickup. Officials stressed the entire city would still be guaranteed at least one trash pickup every week — a standard nationwide.
City officials confirmed Monday that St. Louis has been falling short of that standard.
“It was definitely more than a week (between pickups),” said Chris Bettencourt of south St. Louis.
The overfilled dumpsters in her alley were finally emptied last week, she said. The block next to hers had not been picked up. Trash and broken glass surrounded multiple dumpsters there. The stench near them was stifling in the heat.
“It’s definitely a health and safety issue,” Bettencourt said. “We’re not the only place who’s seeing rats starting to move around. If you come out at night, there’s a real roach presence, more than you typically get. It’s a big deal…the stench, broken glass, things piling up, access to parking.”
The City of St. Louis has 48 daily trash routes. One month after the news conference, fewer than 30 were getting picked up. The city’s trash commissioner was placed on leave last week, though city officials said the key issues with pickup — equipment failure and a labor shortage — were not his fault.
There is now progress to report. City officials have posted on social media that the number of daily routes picked up had climbed to 35. The City of St. Louis Refuse Division is still short 10 drivers and offering $3,000 bonuses for new ones.
“As of last week our average daily number of routes that we hit was 35,” said Nick Dunne, the public information officer for Mayor Tishaura Jones. “We know that major factors contributing to this are being shorthanded on staff as well as the availability of trucks…We aim to pick up once a week. If we miss routes we will send crews out on weekends.”
The Post-Dispatch reporter who tweeted about the mess Monday morning, tweeted an update Monday afternoon. The dumpsters had been emptied and the mess was gone.
St. Louis residents are urged to report trash issues to the Citizens Service Bureau by calling 314-622-4800 or tweeting @stlcsb.