Chattanooga, Tennessee halts its recycling pickup due to a shortage in pickup drivers

recycling
  • Residents in Chattanooga, Tennessee, will have to live without a recycling pickup service for now, the city tweeted.
  • Recycling collection will resume once the city can fill 32 open positions for recycling pickup drivers.
  • Competitive rates, employee retention, and ongoing COVID-19 issues are compounding the employee shortage.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The city government of Chattanooga, Tennessee, will be stopping curbside recycling pickup starting July 30 due to employee shortages.

The recycling collection service will be suspended until the city is able to fill 32 open commercial driver positions, it said Thursday on Twitter. City officials are recommending residents personally deliver their recycling to Chattanooga’s recycling drop-off centers.

“This was a difficult decision,” the city said in the tweet, also citing low employee retention and hiring challengesas factor creating an “untenable” curbside recycling effort. The disparity in competitive rates from private sector recycling pickups adds to the difficulty in finding dedicated employees.

The starting pay for CDL (commercial driver’s license) truck drivers is $29,865 – 118% less than the starting pay for drivers recruited by local pickup companies, according to a presentation the mayor’s office made to the Chattanooga city council earlier this week.

The office also presented data that most qualified job candidates are turning down these vacant municipal positions, some of which have been unfilled for more than two years, because of the pay. The city is then forced to hire less-qualified applicants who require more training and manager supervision worker.

“The impact to recycling due to our driver shortage illustrates one of Chattanooga’s most acute problems,” said City of Chattanooga’s Chief of Staff Brent Goldberg. “Pay for city employees is far below the market rate, a problem our budget will address when we present it to [Chattanooga’s] City Council in August.”

A wave of employee retirements, resignations, and COVID-19 illness may contribute to further public work disruptions, according to city spokesman Ellis Smith.

“In spite of supervisors filling in on a regular basis, garbage and brush pick-up could also be impacted if the driver shortage continues to grow worse,” Smith said.

The tweet also linked to an external top application page where people can apply for one of the open pickup driver positions. Applicants will need to have a commercial driver’s license to apply.

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