By: Jarret Romanello, The St. Lucie
August 19, 2021
(FORT PIERCE, Fl) Waste Pro is working to keep St. Lucie County customers happy, despite increased demands for service and a reduced workforce causing an industry-wide interruption in waste disposal.
Since 2004, Waste Pro has delivered timely service to St. Lucie County, but recent complications have impacted services, causing trash and complaints to pile up. “We didn’t forget how to pick up garbage; the conditions are unlike anything I’ve seen in twenty years,” said Waste Pro Southeast Region Vice-President Russell Mackie.
The coronavirus pandemic created a perfect storm for nationwide interruptions in the waste industry. Companies like Waste Management, Republic, and Waste Pro are trying to do more with fewer workers in a changing world. “We are picking up 20% more garbage with 20% fewer workers,” Mackie told The St. Lucie Post.
Unemployment benefits, stimulus payments, and advance payments of child tax credits keep workers home, and employers busy hanging help wanted signs in their windows. And with more people working from home, there is more garbage at the curbside. “It’s challenging to find someone to get on the back of a truck in 100°F heat to collect 40,000 lbs. of waste six days a week,” Mackie told The St. Lucie Post.
To find new workers, Waste Pro is holding job fairs, increasing salaries, initiating retention bonuses, and recruiting individuals with industry experience from across the country. With national freight lines competing for experienced CDL operators, Mackie hopes to find drivers who want to stay close to home. “Drivers always gravitate to the waste industry because it’s a job that you can work in your community and be home at night,” Mackie told The St. Lucie Post.
To find drivers, Waste Pro is collaborating with St. Lucie County to hold joint job fairs. The company needs 15 additional drivers and 15 helpers to bring staffing to an appropriate level. Waste Pro drivers earn between 50k and 75k per year with various performance bonuses and a benefits package including health, dental, 401K, and vacation time. “The career is stable, and the garbage industry is recession-proof,” Mackie says.
Mackie says they must find ways to make it easier to collect trash at the curb to improve efficiency. He questions the need to pick up yard waste once a week and says routes would run smoother if branches and palm fawns were collected once a month. “Let’s work together to create a more efficient schedule and routes,” Mackie says.
Waste Pro is also looking at providing customers with containers and equipping trucks for automated garbage pickup – similar to how they collect recyclables in the county. Current trucks are semi-automated, requiring a helper. But fully automated trucks would make the job less physically demanding and more appealing “We have to understand this is hard work and anticipate current conditions are not going to return to normal,” Mackie said.
To ease waste accumulation in the city of Port St. Lucie, Waste Pro and the city have established four self-serve drop-off sites. These bulky and yard waste drop-off locations are free and available to Port St. Lucie residents, six days a week, Monday-Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., until further notice. To find a location near you, visit Port St. Lucie | Home (cityofpsl.com).
In St. Lucie County, service is improving slowly but steadily. In the past month, resident complaints have dropped 17%, and the county’s fines levied against Waste Pro have dropped 39%, according to Communications Director Eric Gill. “Waste Pro has demonstrated their commitment to improving service in St. Lucie County, and we are seeing some progress,” Gill said.
Mackie says his workers are some of the most incredible people around and asks for patience and understanding from customers. “We are turning over every rock to improve service to our customers and support our employees,” Mackie says. He asks customers to containerize garbage to make routes run quicker. “Every second counts; the longer we have to spend at your house, the more service is delayed,” Mackie says.
Mackie is optimistic about the reduced complaints, and confident service will improve as staffing levels stabilize. “Waste Pro is here for the long haul and cares for our customers in St. Lucie County. We ask for patience and understanding as we navigate challenging times to meet the demands of today’s changing environment,” Mackie told The St. Lucie Post.