DOWNTOWN — The city is behind on delivering garbage cans to thousands of households — and aldermen aren’t happy about it.
The backlog was up to 14,000 requests for new trash cans in June, with some residents saying they’ve had to wait half a year before getting a new can from the Department of Streets and Sanitation. The long wait for trash cans is “ridiculous,” said Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), but Streets and Sanitation contends it’s working to address the backlog and get carts to residents.
“I want them to catch up and get rid of the backlog. It’s unacceptable,” Munoz said. His residents are “very antsy, they’re very restless. It’s ridiculous. One shouldn’t have to wait three, four, five months for a garbage can.”
Munoz said the residents who have had to go long periods with trash cans are having to borrow cans from their neighbors or put their trash in neighbors’ carts.
“But that’s not sustainable,” Munoz said. “We need to catch up on this backlog.”
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said he’s “perplexed” as to how the backlog can still be so large after the city increased funding to Streets and Sanitation to deal with the requests for garbage cans. The backlog of requests for new carts started in 2017, and the city increased its budget for the carts by 50 percent to $1.5 million to address the issue, according to the Department of Streets and Sanitation.
“When you’re in the 14,000 range, you’re kinda like, ‘That’s really out of hand — very poorly managed,'” Waguespack said.
At budget hearings last year, Waguespack said, it was frustrating to hear Streets and Sanitation representatives say they were “working on” the backlog without creating a plan for how to deal with it. It “sounds like they still don’t” have a plan, Waguespack said.
But Streets and Sanitation said it’s been working to address the backlog. It delivered 5,000 carts in June, and crews will start delivering carts on Saturdays after the Fourth of July to get rid of the backlog, a spokeswoman said. The department is also refurbishing carts to give to residents.
The black garbage carts are provided for free by the city to homes and small apartment buildings, and they’re designed to combat pests like rats in city alleys.
“Requests from residents are a top priority for [Streets and Sanitation], and we are working to quickly and efficiently address the black garbage cart backlog within coming weeks,” according to Streets and Sanitation. “Black carts are critical to keeping alleys clean and safe, and we will continue working to ensure all residents have the resources they need.”
Though Streets and Sanitation delivered more than 21,000 carts in the first half of 2018, a 33 percent increase from the same period last year, the backlog has continued due to requests for new cans from residents.
Chicagoans can ask for carts if their cart has been stolen, damaged or if they need more cans to contain their trash. Requests are fulfilled on a first come, first served basis.
Allison Beaulieu-Cholke, of Woodlawn, has been waiting for a new cart since April 7. Her family’s garbage cart vanished a few days before then. When she couldn’t find it, she and her husband, Sam Cholke, called 311 to request a new cart. They were told they’d get a cart, Beaulieu-Cholke said, but none showed up.
They called 311 again on April 24 when they still had no can, Beaulieu-Cholke said, and a day later they asked the alderman’s office for help. They were promised a temporary can, but that never arrived, Beaulieu-Cholke said.
They tried 311 and the alderman’s office again on May 23, but they were told there were no carts left to give the family, Beaulieu-Cholke said.
In the meantime, the family asked a neighbor if they could use the neighbor’s can. But that feels “kind of rude,” Beaulieu-Cholke said, especially because they have to use the neighbor’s garbage can for waste from their dog and baby.
Residents should expect their requests to be filled in about eight weeks, according to Streets and Sanitation. Requests for a new cart can be submitted by calling 311, which keeps a log of requests online. The garbage carts are free for single-family homes and apartments with up to four units.
Streets and Sanitation collects garbage from more than 600,000 households throughout the city. The city supplies more than 1.5 million garbage carts to homes throughout the city, according to the Streets and Sanitation website.