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Salina sanitation driver Samuel Redding began his workday Tuesday about 7 a

Salina Journal - 12/28/2017

Salina sanitation driver Samuel Redding began his workday Tuesday about 7 a.m., which is typical, but he was prepared for a busier day than normal.

"During this time, our stops are a little bit longer. There are way more items to pick up," he said.

It's always busy for a couple of weeks following Christmas, Redding said.

Drivers typically make one run during the day to the Salina Landfill, which Redding said takes 45 minutes a trip.

"I'll probably make more than one trip today, so that's an extra 45 minutes I'll have to use going out there," he said.

Redding is one of 21 Salina sanitation employees - 12 of whom work trash routes - said sanitation supervisor Tommy Highsmith.

During a normal work week, four trash trucks are sent out, each with three workers - a driver and two runners, who pick up and load trash.

Each truck, Highsmith said, is responsible for picking up trash at nearly 800 residences a day.

"Between them all, they pick up trash at 15,100 residences every week," he said.

Highsmith said that in 2016, about 100 more tons of trash were picked up the week of Christmas as compared to the week before.

One of the four trucks picked up 168 bags of items on Dec. 18 this year. Highsmith defines "bags" as items that are outside the trash carts provided by the city. That same truck picked up 1,038 bags of trash on Tuesday, the day after Christmas.

Trucks fill faster

"It's very hard work. A while back, we placed meters on some of our runners and found out that they average 10 1/2 miles a day of running and walking," he said. "Imagine this, plus an increased workload during this time of year."

The high volume of trash continues for at least a week following the holiday.

"You have so many people who miss their pickup day because they forget we're working a day behind because of the holiday," he said. "It takes some parents a couple of days to put together some of the toys and then we get the trash from that."

Five-year sanitation worker and driver Jake Breeden said more cardboard boxes and items that take up more space in the truck are usually thrown out following Christmas.

"That requires us to make those extra trips to the landfill," he said.

Breeden said the pace of the workers oftentimes is slowed down by weather.

"The residential streets can get really icy, so we have to be more careful. One of my coworkers fell four different times yesterday (Tuesday)," he said. "I work a lot slower when there is ice or snow on the roads. I've stepped in a hole that was knee deep before because it was covered by snow. You have to watch what you're doing, for sure."

Lightening load

In an attempt to keep workers on their normal schedules, Highsmith said a fifth truck is deployed during Christmas week.

"When you mix the cold weather and this snow with the increase in trash volume, it slows us down, so it's important to have more help," he said.

Highsmith compared this time of year to the early spring, when grass is starting to grow back.

"We pick up a ton of grass. It's like everyone cuts their grass that first week it starts back growing and that continues for two or three weeks," he said.

A busy schedule

Salina sanitation crews work Monday through Friday all year, except the weeks of Christmas, Thanksgiving and News Year's Day.

When trash pickup is canceled for a holiday during the week, haulers have to work on Saturday to make up that day.

"Of course, if the holiday falls on the weekend, that doesn't impact us as much," Highsmith said. "But those are the only three holidays we take off. We're working the Fourth of July. We'd rather work during the week than on a Saturday."

Residents can help

Breeden said residents could help make sanitation workers' load a bit lighter.

"If they could put everything inside a bag, that would help out a lot," he said. "Most of the time, they just throw stuff out and it gets knocked down or blown everywhere and we have to pick it all up, little by little."

 
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