St. Louis City trash worker outlines Refuse troubles as complaints grow

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 8:47 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- Trash truck drivers are speaking out in a News 4 exclusive interview on why they’d rather flip burgers than pick up your trash- and can get paid more to do it.

Collecting trash is dirty, dangerous work, a city trash worker said. They asked to be anonymous, fearing retaliation.

“Whatever in the alley, a mattress, a toilet, whatever it may be, you have to put your hands on it and pick it up,” said the worker.

News 4 has been reporting trash troubles in the city for years.

According to Karen May from Bevo Mills, city leaders have made promises to improve the trash issues. Instead, the trash situation is getting worse.

May went 12 days without the city picking up her trash, which then was collected two days in a row.

“You’ve seen these reports of the trash piling up. what do you think about that?” Asked investigative reporter Lauren Trager. “Well, it’s sad because it’s not fair to the citizens because they pay for the trash to get picked up,” said the worker.

The trash worker said the piles of trash have led to more rats and rodents in the city than ever before, which is becoming a health issue.

News 4 found the city has received more than 3,250 complaints for overflowing containers just this year.

This number is close to the number of complaints about overflowing containers for all of last year and significantly higher than in recent years.

“How many trucks are down right now? Whew. Over 40 trucks,” said the city trash worker.

The worker said even though they’re working seven days a week, they can’t make all the routes without enough trucks.

“Our hands are tied because we come there to do the job and they say Refuse isn’t doing the job, it’s not on the workers to do the job,” the worker said.

Another issue facing St. Louis trash truck drivers is the pay. St. Louis Refuse workers start at $16 an hour. News 4 is told other private companies might start at $20 or more.

“I had a co-worker who been there for two years, he left and went to a fast food restaurant because he got more money, we lose two to three people a week,” said the city trash worker.

The city promised incentives, but workers say it is not enough, and they need 50 drivers and 50 trucks to pick up trash effectively.

News 4 wanted to talk to leaders at city hall—but a spokesperson referred us to a previous online meeting, where streets director Betheny Williams, acknowledged the lack of staff and trucks.

“We know that it’s a problem and just as much as its a problem for the citizens, I am a citizen, its a problem across the city, because of the trash we are seeing,” Williams said.

Workers and citizens are demanding change immediately before the trash troubles grow.

“For the work we do, we take the worst of the worst. whatever everyone else don’t want, Refuse gets it,” the worker said.

The street director says they will use Covid funds to purchase new trucks and cameras to combat illegal dumping.

News 4 will continue to provide updates as the city combats the issue.