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Action Promised Following Missed Trash Pickups in Cowtown

Overflowing trash bins in Fort Worth | Image by NBC 5 DFW
Overflowing trash bins in Fort Worth | Image by NBC 5 DFW

Faced with growing frustration from residents about missed trash pickups, Fort Worth officials have vowed to take action.

The issue was first raised during an April 16 Fort Worth City Council work session when Council Member Charlie Lauersdorf requested a report on trash services.

The City has a contract with Waste Management, which maintains Knight Waste Services as a subcontractor, per the Fort Worth Report.

During the meeting, Lauersdorf said they “are not performing” and “something needs to change.”

“I’m absolutely ready to declare war on this whole process … they are garbage. It’s one of the most basic, easiest services, and it’s constantly getting missed,” Lauersdorf said during the work session. “At some point, we just have to say ‘thanks but no thanks because you are not able to meet the requirements in the contract.'”

The findings of the report Lauersdorf ordered were revealed during a Fort Worth City Council work session on May 7.

Cody Whittenburg, environmental services director for the city, shared that the key customer service issues the department has faced are complaints of general disregard for customers, incomplete routes, missed collections, missed collections for customers with disabilities, and inadequate equipment maintenance.

There are over 250,000 residential collections per month, with an average of around 1,600 missed collections per month, according to data covering October 2023 to March of this year. Trash pickup is clocking a 1.52 miss ratio per 1,000 residential customers when the ratio should be less than 1.0.

An alarming ratio of 29.17 was found for misses per 1,000 customers with disabilities, or 663 misses in six months.

Whittenburg outlined a plan to address the problems, including reaffirming customer service expectations, improving communication, maximizing efforts, resolving missed collections quickly, leveraging technology and route monitoring, and adjusting contract requirements with Waste Management as needed.

“It’s become a new normal that your trash is missed, and we want to undo that new normal,” Whittenburg said.

He further noted that it was important for customers to report missed collections by phone or email at 817-392-1234 or email at [email protected].

“Now that the city is much more aware of the scale of the problem, now it’s time to hold Waste Management and Knight Waste Services accountable,” Lauersdorf told The Dallas Express following the May 7 work session.

DX asked Lauersdorf to describe some of the complaints he has received from residents about trash.

“Oh, where does one begin? Constant missed pickups, partial pickups, entire streets missed, and sometimes just houses skipped for no apparent reason,” Lauersdorf replied. “Much of the issue is without disabled service as well, which is where the contractor actually retrieves the can from the front of the house. But they’re skipped as if they forgot to put the cans out.”

A delivery driver, Rebecca Valdez, told DX that trash cans were “in the way half the time or in the street,” forcing her to park incorrectly.

Three years ago, the council voted to extend its contract with Waste Management, valued at nearly $479 million over 12 years, per the Fort Worth Report.

On Tuesday, the Fort Worth City Council will vote to amend the contract to remove the minority and woman-owned business enterprise requirement.

“The council will need to amend the contract, removing the requirement in order for Waste Management to move forward with improvement plans if Knight Waste Services cannot improve,” Lauersdorf noted.

Fort Worth is not the only North Texas city dealing with trash. Dallas residents want to see their city cleaner too.

A 2023 survey from the City of Dallas found that 44% of respondents think the City was doing a “poor” job of maintaining clean streets, as covered by The Dallas Express.

This was the lowest street cleaning approval rating in recent years. Only 4% of the survey takers said the City was doing an “excellent “job, whereas 21% said the City does a “good” job of keeping the streets clean.

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