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'Don't Use Our Facility Just To Have Something To Do': Waste Facility Sees Increase In Drop-Offs

CiCi Washington is a scale operator at the Montgomery County Transfer and Recycling Facility. On Wednesday, as cars and trucks with trash pulled up to the scale, she talked to customers through a window partially covered with plexiglass. She took down their information and directed them to the over 100,000-square-foot warehouse to dump their garbage.

Recently she has noticed more customers coming with small loads, like a bag of trash from cleaning out a refrigerator. She has also interacted with more first-time customers, as well as seniors and parents driving up with their children in the car.

“We’re a busy facility year-round because of the type of service we provide, and it helps a lot of people. But it is an increase on the business that we normally do,” she said. “It's just ironic because this is when you would expect maybe a die down.”

For the month of March, the facility recorded over a thousand more drop-offs this year than in 2019.

Bob Downing, assistant director of Montgomery County Environmental Services, said on some days the line of cars coming to drop off waste is about a mile long. There have also been days where around 40 percent of customers have paid less than $5 to drop off waste, which amounts to just a few bags of garbage.

“They are coming here in droves to dispose of their trash, recycling, or yard waste,” he said.  “It's been unusually busy on the public side because of, I believe, the stay-at-home orders. People are cleaning out their garages and attics and basements and they're ending up here.”

Some surrounding areas have cut back on waste services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Greene County reduced hours for yard waste drop-off and has cancelled events for special waste drop-off. Springboro suspended yard waste and bulk collections. The Montgomery County facility has in turn seen an increase in out-of-district customers.

The essential workers at the facility are now interacting with more customers even as the governor has ordered the public to stay home. Workers are wearing gloves and masks, and the site has increased sanitation procedures and added protective screens in workspaces. But scale operators still have to exchange money and talk to customers who are not always wearing protective masks or gloves, who may be coughing, sneezing, or even spitting out tobacco from their car windows.

Scale operator Ginny Brentlinger said she has also noticed the increase, with customers telling her they are doing spring cleaning. She said it feels good to be needed as an essential worker to keep the facility running during the pandemic.

“Trash doesn’t stop. If we stop, then we’re going to see a whole different level of an epidemic of diseases and stuff,” she said. “We’re kind of the forgotten essential people.” 

Montgomery County’s weekly trash collection has not changed, and most household trash can be left at the curb. Washington says residents should respect the stay-at-home order and take advantage of their trash haulers as they continue to pick up residential trash.

“Don't use our facility just to have something to do and put yourself at risk and other people at risk.”

While working at the station Leila Goldstein has covered the economic effects of grocery cooperatives, police reform efforts in Dayton and the local impact of the coronavirus pandemic on hiring trends, telehealth and public parks. She also reported Trafficked, a four part series on misinformation and human trafficking in Ohio.