Santa's ultimate helpers clear holiday debris from county residences
|Garbage cans overflowing with Christmas debris line the streets in Carbon County. Local sanitation truck drivers fight a tight holiday schedule to pick up the containers in a timely manner. Dec. 26 is heaviest day of the year for trash removal. On day after Christmas, a snowstorm made the sanitation workers' job more difficult.|
Along the streets in Carbon County, by the curb lie the discards created by Christmas celebrations.
Hanging out of the tops of garbage cans are ribbons, colored paper, garland and tinsel. And by the side of the cans may be bags of leftovers or boxes too large to fit into the containers.
For the average person, the Christmas season has ended. However, for the individuals who have to clean up the mess, the chores associated with Dec. 25 will continue for at least a few more weeks.
The individuals who have to deal with the mess are sanitation workers. They could not take Dec. 26 off and do not get the extended holiday many residents take between the Christmas and New Year's celebrations.
Sanitation workers are the ultimate Santa's helpers, taking away the debris that remains after the fun and excitement end.
"What normally takes two loads to pick up, often takes three at Christmas time," commented City Sanitation district manager Wade Williams on Tuesday, after spending the morning dealing with a broken down trash truck in Emery County. "The third load many not be a full load, but it is still there."
In addition, when these workers take a day off (whether it be for Christmas or the Fourth of July) they have to fit two days work into one. People want their garbage picked up on time; it is seemingly more important than power being on or even having the cable television go out.
"This year we doubled up our commercial routes on Wednesday," stated Williams. "Then we brought on our backup trucks and extra drivers and doubled up our residential service on Friday."
Despite the higher gift giving in recent years, and consequently more packaging and wrapping, hauling away the trash is physically easier than it used to be for sanitation personnel. Before the days of automated trucks they had to dump all variety of cans and boxes into the backs of trucks by hand.
Currently, hydraulic lifts pick up uniformly manufactured containers as the operators stay in the drivers seat.
But holiday garbage is still plentiful and sore backs from lifting cans have been replaced by the pain and pressure of providing a lot more service per vehicle than was done in the old days.
"We also have a limitation here in our area since we haul all the refuse to the ECDC's (East Carbon Development Corporation) landfill," explained Williams. "It is only open eight hours a day, five days a week, so we have to fit our truck schedules into those hours."
"Many landfills around the country are open much longer hours. ECDC also closes for some holidays and so we have to work with that, too," added Williams.
Holiday garbage, food scraps and packaging materials increase loads on the trucks, as well as the excess garbage because people are at home.
Trucks can legally only haul so much weight and placing more garbage in cans means more weight per tip.
Consequently, fewer cans can be dumped into a truck before the vehicles can head to landfill.
"Actually, the average trip to ECDC for one of our drivers is about an hour and 15 minutes," noted Williams. "That, of course, depends on where they are transporting from. The time is less for a driver in Wellington than it is for one in Helper."
Garbage really isn't on people's minds during the holidays. As the drivers begin to tip cans at the start of the route, the roar of engines lifting and crushing the loads brings out droves of people who forgot to put garbage out.
Some residents can also be seen scurrying to get the receptacles out before the truck arrives at the front door.
A few people can be seen coming out of private residences or apartments the trucks have passed, looking despondently at an overflowing can sitting in carports or off to the side of the dwellings.
Garbage pickup will have to wait until next week and the people wonder what to do for packing space until then.
Each year some types of special problems arise. One year it may be the dates the holiday falls on. Another year, like this year, the weather enters into the equation.
"It has been extra fun hauling away refuse this year," said Williams. "We had one of the busiest and heaviest days of the year (the Friday after Christmas) on the same day we had the biggest snowstorm in five years."
Nationally many companies estimate that their loads increase between 20 and 50 percent.
The result of the holiday spirit is an extra five million tons of trash that has to be either recycled or ends up going into landfills.
"It's just an estimate, but I think locally our loads go up about 40 percent," stated Williams.
And for some trash transport companies, Christmas isn't actually the busiest time of the year, particularly in terms of weight.
For many haulers, the spring is actually the time when the weight of the cans goes up and trash increases the most because people are cleaning their homes and, more importantly, their yards.
Cans get full of grass clippings and other yard debris.
"I guess it depends on how you look at it," explained Williams. "The weight in the spring is higher, but the volume of trash is biggest at Christmas."
Christmas refuse doesn't just have an effect on those that haul it professionally.
Often people head to the landfill with pickup truck or trailer loads of it, especially if they missed the garbage truck that week.
Some of that ends up on the side of Airport Road when trucks traveling at 50 miles per hour with uncovered loads dump part of the contents via the wind.
There is often spilled trash along the Airport Road at all times of the year.
But during the holiday season, the situation tends to get worse because many of the plastic sacks being hauled are filled with light gift wrapping and bows.
The sacks not only blow out easily of the whatever is transporting the items, but also act like plastic tumbleweeds in the winter winds after landing on the ground.
State and county ordinances specifying that loads be covered aren't always enforced. However, police will enforce littering laws.
As for the trash trucks, the vehicles and drivers will continue to roll to pick up the holiday leftovers until the debris is gone, usually by the middle of January.
"It generally takes two to three weeks to take care of it all," concluded Williams. "Eventually it will all be hauled away."