Trash collectors: No rest for the weary after Christmas

Workers pick up trash along Cosby Corner Road east of West Point Tuesday afternoon.
Staff Writer

For most people, Christmas is a time of days off and slowing down at work.

That's not true for at least one group -- trash collectors.

"Yes sir," a busy one said when asked Tuesday afternoon before scurrying to the next driveway. "We'll pick up about three times as much as a normal today," said Clay County District 2 Supervisor Luke Lummus, who oversees the county's garbage collection operation.

"We usually dump once a day, but we dumped at dinner, probably at about 3 and will go again to try to finish up," Lummus said of the work crews put in Tuesday. "And some trash will get missed. These guys are conscientious, but there's a lot out there. We'll make sure to get it all caught up as quick as we can. We just ask folks to be a little patient if we miss something."

Part of the increase is combining two days of routes into one.

But the county's Tuesday route traditionally is only a half day so the rest is the Christmas surge.

Nationally, Americans generate 25 percent more garbage between Thanksgiving and New Year's than the rest of the year. And much of that is on Christmas Day itself.

According to statistics, the increase in the popularity of gift cards, gift bags and online gift-giving has helped stabilize the dump deluge from a generation ago.

Boxes and wrapping paper make up the bulk of the additional load. But bottles and cartons from liquids also add up, especially the weight.

And food waste can make an already messy job worse.

"Pretty yucky sometimes," another collector said as he tossed a dripping plastic bag into the back of a trash truck.

The task has gotten a little easier since the county went to a third crew. That spreads the burden and helps cover more ground more efficiently. It also allows the workers to take

Thanksgiving and Christmas as holidays, Lummus explained. "It's made it better. But today's still busy, real busy, busiest day of the year for us," Lummus said.