Montana waste collection employees continue as essential workers during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 12:03 PM, Apr 28, 2020

GREAT FALLS — The amount of trash produced per household has increased as many people continue to work from home and that puts even more emphasis on just how important the job of trash collection is during this pandemic.

“As more people have been home, there’s more weight in the containers and more waste in the containers, so we’ve done some things temporarily to streamline our service,” explained Republic Services Northern Montana general manager Mike Cross.

“That was to temporarily stop recycling, temporarily stop taking extras. These were things that we didn’t do just in the market here, but across our markets, to ensure that we can handle that additional capacity from that residential waste. We have had to change our operations slightly, temporarily, and we’re looking forward to getting back to businesses as usual as we can.”

Cross says that he looks forward to operations returning back to normal but added that that won’t happen before the state opens back up. The company will move along with government and health officials' directives, and not faster than advised.

As for what you can do to keep yourself and the garbage truck drivers safe, Mike says there isn’t that much to be done. His employees have all been given extra protective equipment, all of which follows guidelines set by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One thing he did say was that if people keep their trash in bags, it makes his drivers’ jobs easier. More trash means more contents to collect and sort through, but bagging your waste makes that process exponentially easier.

The CDC also recommends that if anyone in your house is sick, they use their own trash can, with a spill-proof bag inside. When removing those bags or any bags, use gloves, and wash your hands when you’ve finished disposing of the trash bags.

Anything that is non-disposable, such as silverware or plates, should be handed with gloves and washed with warm water or in the dishwasher.

“It’s really like going to the grocery store, we just have to make sure that we’re being safe,” Cross said. “They’re making the choice to come in here each day, to go pick up the trash, to fix the trucks, and we’re incredibly thankful for that.”