Local Sanitation Workers Impacted by Extreme Heat


A sanitation worker collects garbage on a hot summer day in Texas. | Image by WFAA

When passing through certain Arlington neighborhoods, one might notice significantly more trash sitting on the curb than is typical. That is due to the extreme heat over the past few days, which has made it very difficult for sanitation workers to pick up the garbage.

Peggy Lively, an Arlington local, placed her garbage cans at the curb on Tuesday afternoon, but she was unsure whether they would be collected. “I thought I missed the opportunity because many times they will come in the morning, like mid-to-late morning,” Lively explained.

The City of Arlington contracted with Republic Services to provide twice-weekly trash pickup in residential neighborhoods like Lively’s. However, Republic Services is dealing with many sick calls because some collection staff cannot tolerate the heat while working outside.

Lively expressed sympathy, saying, “I would not even mind if they came once a week, or if they delivered after and later in the day, just so that it is more tolerable for them.”

Even in the hottest temperatures, Republic Services ensures that its vehicles are stocked with water for its staff to drink. The health and safety of its workforce is a top priority.

Most of the time, a driver and two collectors work together to collect garbage. Whenever there is a shortage of truck collection workers, the dates for pickup are rearranged to meet the contractual commitments they have with the city.

Because the weather sometimes affects collection days, city leaders in Arlington are considering purchasing new equipment. Already, self-collecting trucks collect recyclable materials within the city limits every week. While the driver stays behind the wheel, an automated mechanical arm deposits recyclables into the vehicle instead of dumping them by hand.

During a June presentation, the city’s authorities learned what expenditures would be necessary for a changeover to automated collection trucks. The time frame for the process could take between 18 and 24 months.

Lively is all for automating processes, especially if it makes the trash collectors’ jobs easier. However, Lively is also concerned about the impact that change would have on the people who currently perform their jobs on the back of manual trucks. “I hope they can transition” to other positions in the company, she said.

Arlington households will continue to rely on manual collection for the foreseeable future. Consequently, the sanitation workers stationed at the back of the collecting vehicles will continue to work in the scorching heat.

Republic Services maintains contractual relationships with several North Texas towns. The waste disposal company continuously seeks to hire additional staff to meet demand. Vacant opportunities often include collection workers, drivers, customer service representatives, salespeople, and more.

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