Change in trash service causes hiccups

Multiple weeks of trash not being picked up was just one of the concerns cited by Whidbey residents.

An island-wide change in solid waste service has not been without its – sometimes smelly – challenges.

Multiple weeks of trash not being picked up, missing cans and dismal customer service were just some of the concerns cited by Whidbey residents.

Starting Dec. 20, Island Disposal switched from servicing customer-owned trash cans to new company-provided cans. Garbage collectors began driving automated trucks mechanized to pick up the new cans.

For the nearly 9,000 customers that Island Disposal serves in Langley, Coupeville and unincorporated Whidbey Island, this meant big changes.

Andrew Riggs, the site manager at Island Disposal, said over one-third of customers experienced a change in garbage pick-up day as a result of the significant reconfiguration of the garbage truck drivers’ routes on the island.

In “more than a few” cases, customers did not have their cans out at the right time and thus did not get serviced, he said.

Less than 1% of customers did not receive their new cans, he added.

A week of snow and ice further exacerbated the issues some customers had been facing with disruption to service. Because of the wintry conditions, trucks weren’t able to access some streets for a week and a half.

Freeland resident Rod Mourant was dismayed to find that on the first day of its operation, the new garbage truck had only picked up about half of his trash, leaving the other half behind in the street.

Mourant, who is scheduled to have his garbage picked up every Monday, didn’t experience another trash pick-up until three weeks later, on Jan. 10. Some of his neighbors also had to deal with heaps of several weeks’ worth of garbage when they were bypassed, too.

He speculated that the truck drivers may have had trouble navigating the narrow road he lives off of in their new vehicles.

“They’ve all got to learn how to use their trucks and do the job,” he said.

Because of the change in routes, customer service representatives were unable to tell Mourant what time a truck would be coming by. But it eventually did, this week.

Riggs said not serving a customer or road is “very rare” for Island Disposal.

The most common request he has been hearing from customers is about changing the size of their trash cans. In many cases, Whidbey residents have wanted to trade in their 64-gallon cans for two 35-gallon cans, which Riggs has found to be unusual but fitting for an elderly population that may not want to lug around the big cans.

In honoring those requests, the company is facing some troubles with supply chain issues compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. It may take a few months to get every customer their ideal container size.

“Getting those swapped out, that’s probably been the biggest challenge right now,” he said.