Spring cleaning? Crowds at the dump causing ‘unsafe conditions’

Clark County

Clark County officials ask customers to get curbside service, or keep trash at home until coronavirus threat passes

CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — Spring cleaning is an age old pastime, but even more people than usual may be embracing their inner Marie Kondo and clearing out belongings that don’t bring them joy. Some transfer stations — more commonly referred to as “the dump” — say they’re seeing an increase in customers, presumably tackling big projects while Oregon and Washington’s stay at home orders are in effect.

That has Clark County waste management officials very concerned.

“It is compromising the safety and health of our staff,” district manager of Waste Connections Derek Ranta said.

Transfer stations are seeing double and triple the number of visits compared to the same time last year, according to Kim Harless, solid waste operations specialist for Clark County.

“A predominant amount of that is coming from homeowners who are doing clean out jobs or odd jobs around the house and have decided that that material needs to come into the transfer station immediately,” Ranta said, adding that the biggest rushes have been on the weekends.

Central Transfer and Recycling had a long line of cars waiting to drop off trash April 21, 2020 (KOIN)

He said they’ve taken additional safety measures at their stations, like not accepting cash, and providing staff with masks if they want them. However, he said employees are still having a hard time.

“Quite honestly a lot of the customers that come in are not wearing masks, are not being courteous with respect to social distancing,” he said. “They’re upset that they’ve had to wait in line even though we’ve asked them not to come to the transfer stations at this time unless it’s essential.”

The solid waste system is considered an essential part of public health, but Ranta said they would prefer if people sign up for curbside service instead. Extra garbage, yard debris and bulky items like furniture can also be picked up at your curb for an extra fee in many cases.

If you don’t live somewhere with residential trash collection, or find it more cost effective to go to the dump, Ranta said the best thing to do is wait.

“For our staff’s health for their fellow community member’s health, it’s really important that they hold onto that material, come to the transfer station when this is cleared in a month or two, and then we can handle it in a safe manner,” he said.

Oregon transfer stations

It’s a much calmer scenario across the river. Metro, which oversees numerous transfer stations in the Portland area, said overall tonnage has decreased when compared to the same time last year. They have seen a “small uptick in the number of self-haul customers,” but nothing that could be contributed to a specific factor, according to a Metro spokesperson.

Operators at the Clackamas County Garbage & Recycling Transfer Station near Sandy have seen normal levels of demand, according to a county spokesperson. Workers on site are not helping customers unload trucks and trailers as much as they normally would due to social distancing requirements.

In contrast with Clark County, Clackamas County is requesting customers refrain from putting larger items out at the curb if at all possible. Their reasoning is that collecting big trash like mattresses or refrigerators sometimes requires two people, and may not allow for proper social distancing.

Cars and pickups backed up outside the transfer station in Vancouver on April 21, 2020 (KOIN)

Marion County Public Works said they have seen an increase in customer traffic consistent with “spring cleaning and taking advantage of the good weather.” They’ve also instituted changes like reduced tipping areas to ensure social distancing is maintained and requesting customers pay with plastic if possible.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

There aren’t many places for people to take unwanted belongings these days. As KOIN 6 News reported last week, Goodwill locations are closed, but people are still dumping donations outside the building.

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