The Journal Gazette
Monday, April 20, 2020 1:00 am

Five questions for Matt Gratz

City of Fort Wayne solid waste manager

1 How are you and Red River trying to ensure garbage collectors are able to do their jobs safely during the COVID-19 crisis?

Solid waste workers are on the front line, and collections can include those homes where someone might have the virus. That's why we implemented the city-issued “cart only” collection to greatly reduce worker contact to the pandemic.

During this restriction, crews will not collect bulk items or extra bags or boxes placed at the curb. Collecting “carts only” (one per household) allows crews to use the truck's mechanical arm for most collections and reduces exposure to potentially contaminated items. Red River has given crews additional personal protection equipment, including masks, rubber gloves, safety goggles and disinfecting wipes. Workers are also practicing social distancing.


2 Is there anything further residents can do during this pandemic to protect workers?

Yes. Residents can bag their trash before putting it into the trash cart. Some residents do not bag their trash. That's a particular problem on routes, especially in alleys, where rear-load trucks require workers to manually push carts to the back of the truck and tip the cart. Loose trash such as tissues, napkins and small pieces of paper can blow up into their face by the wind. If the wind deposits these flyaway items in the neighborhood, it presents additional challenges for residents. For those families caring for someone at home with the coronavirus, the CDC suggests they protect themselves and others by double-bagging disposables.


3 What prompted the limits for garbage pickup during the crisis?

These are front-line workers performing a vital job in the community they live in. It is crucial that we do all that we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Solid waste companies across the country, including Red River, asked for changes to protect their workers, so we made the adjustment late last month.


4 What can residents do with extra yard waste and other things that can't be picked up right now?

Residents can place yard waste in their cart, but a more immediate solution would be to take it to our Biosolids Handling Facility for disposal. Located at 6202 Lake Ave., the facility is spacious for easy social distancing. Biosolids is open on Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Fees are $1 per 100 pounds. Those holding back bulk items, move-out/clean-out or construction debris could contact one of the disposal companies like Advanced Disposal, Bunn Box, or Republic Services. A fee will apply.


5 When the restrictions are lifted, will there still be issues facing solid waste collection?

We appreciate residents cooperating during this challenging time and know that they are storing items that they want to dispose of, like bulk items. Undoubtedly there may be issues with an increase in items at the curb when the restrictions are lifted, and that could result in some delays.

To assist, we are offering, at no cost, to place roll-off containers for a day at the request of neighborhood presidents. This initiative places the container in the neighborhood for a half or full day to allow residents to place bulk items and extra debris in the container. The neighborhood president can call 427-2474 to reserve a roll-off container.

In looking at the entire community, the pandemic has forced us to postpone this spring's annual Great America Clean-up. This important event cleans up open, public areas throughout the community and draws more than 5,000 residents annually. We have rescheduled the event for Sept. 19.

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