In the wake of Hurricane Ida, Republic Services was called before the Metro Council to discuss problems with its performance and what it’s doing to address them.
The timing couldn’t have been worse for the parish’s solid waste contractor, which was already under fire for missing an average of more than 200 collections per week in the first six months of the year. Now, the hurricane was putting more strain on the system.
“People just need to know, when is their garbage going to be picked up?’” frustrated council member Denise Amoroso said at the meeting. “They just want to know when.”
In the weeks since that meeting, the immediate crisis around solid waste collection in the city-parish has abated and services have improved.
Republic General Manager Sharon Mann acknowledges the company has had some challenges this year and says it always strives to do better. But she blames the pandemic for most of those problems and takes issue with even characterizing them as “problems.”
The debate around what is an acceptable level of service in the middle of a pandemic comes as communities around the country are grappling with garbage collection crises of their own. Baton Rouge is not alone in its frustration. In some places, like New Orleans, things are much worse.
How much is fair to demand of a company that is constrained by factors seemingly beyond its control? Are there ways to negotiate a contract that might better serve the taxpayer? What are other cities doing to improve solid waste collection?