The problems Sandy Springs has been experiencing are not unique, city staff told the City Council. (César Mota from Pixabay)

Sandy Springs is not unique in problems with trash collection as the industry struggles with workforce shortages and equipment supply chain issues.

City Council heard a presentation during its Sept. 20 work session on the status of its waste hauling, residents’ complaints and possible options for the city.

“The city of Sandy Springs currently outsources all of our trash and recycling collection services. This allows our residents to choose the private or the private company that best works for their needs,” Executive Project Manager Caroline Galvin. “We also partner with Keep North Fulton Beautiful to help with residents recycling needs.”

Thirteen private companies provide solid waste services to the city, she said. Five companies provide residential services, with two only providing to specific homeowners’ associations – and one of them no longer accepts new clients. Five companies provide more specialized services including dumpster rental.

Galvin said city residents have voiced concerns about delays in service, canceled service and a decline in customer service. The issues existed before the pandemic but increased as a result of staffing shortages it caused.

A switch to automated side loader trucks has been linked to an increase in fees and the need to use a specific type of trash can, she said.

Roswell, the only North Fulton city with its own in-house waste hauling service, has a budget is $13 million, but the fees it charges don’t necessarily cover all costs. Alpharetta contracts with Republic Service and accepts quarterly payments in advance from residents. Commercial properties can work with the company of their choice, Galvin said.

Milton and Johns Creek have individual private companies that are permitted to work in their cities. Mountain Park has a contract with Waste Pro.

“Most of the cities have public collection events similar to what we do with Keep North Fulton Beautiful, where they’ll have document shredding events mattress recycling, electronics recycling and so on,” Galvin said.

Cobb County held a work session on trash hauling, which revealed similar issues. One issue was residents are having issues on specific streets because trash trucks can’t physically go into their cul-de-sacs to access their properties. They’ve had issues with garbage pickup times and illegal dumping, she said.

“These problems are not specific to Sandy Springs. This is an industry-wide issue,” Galvin said.

At City Council’s last meeting, a composting grant was discussed. That’s something the city could expand, she said. About 25 to 30% of what goes into landfills is organic waste.

“By removing that, that’s less space in the landfills, less pickups are needed. That’s less wear and tear on our streets, and then less noise pollution as well,” she said.

Councilmember John Paulson thanked Galvin for laying out different possibilities for waste hauling services.

“That said, I don’t want to get into this business,” he said.

Landfills are expensive to build and are filling up, Mayor Rusty Paul said.

“We’ve got to try and figure out how we can reduce the amount of materials that go into the system,” he said.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.