IOWA CITY — The success of Iowa City’s curbside recycling and yard waste programs has had some unintended consequences for city workers.
Last spring, the city introduced curbside collection programs that allowed residents to put much of their recycling into a single cart and put their yard waste — including compost — in a separate cart. All residents were issued recycling carts, and around 7,000 yard waste cards were issued to residents who requested them.
“They were extremely popular,” said Patricia Fossum, assistant superintendent for refuse.
The downside is that since introducing the programs, city collection workers have struggled to keep up with recycling and yard waste collection, Fossum said. That’s true even of weeks without a holiday. Fossum said Memorial Day created an even bigger challenge.
“Everybody was exhausted,” she said.
Fossum said city staff convened after Memorial Day to discuss options for the Fourth of July.
“The guys were like, ‘If we could work the holiday, we’d rather work the holiday,” Fossum said. “Two days (of collections) in one day just wasn’t working at all.”
Fossum said city workers will do waste collection on their typical Thursday routes this week, despite the Independence Day holiday. Workers will receive eight hours of pay for the holiday, plus time and a half pay.
Fossum said the overtime pay still will come out less to what was paid out to workers the day after Memorial Day. Furthermore, they’ll be working in a safer and less stressful environment, she said.
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“They can collect in a safe manner, and we’re not rushing to get through things,” she said. “If we’re already paying that overtime, it’s better to have staff work in a safe environment.”
Going forward, Fossum said the city plans to continue with collection on holidays that fall on weekdays between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Veterans Day. City workers will not work Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Day, as the yard waste collection is suspended at the time and there is less material to collect.
Fossum said the city also is planning on adding staff and trucks in the next budget year.
“It’s a great problem to have,” Fossum said of the popularity of the collection programs. “Now we have to catch up with how successful the programs are.”
The city of Cedar Rapids also announced Monday that crews will collect garbage, recycling and yard waste on the Fourth of July, though other government offices will be closed.
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