Weather Updates

Garbage pick-up no picnic after snow dump

Updated: March 6, 2011 12:17AM

Garbage collection has resumed in Chicago’s 50 wards, but it’s neither a pretty picture nor an easy job.

In order to pick up the trash, refuse trucks have to first force their way through snow-covered alleys without getting stuck. Then, laborers have to dig out garbage carts buried in ice and snow without breaking their backs.

Lou Phillips, business manager for Laborers Union Local 1001, said he heard of three trucks getting stuck in alleys on Thursday. Some alleys have been plowed. Others remain untouched.

“They’re trying to go through some of these alleys with snow plows to try and open them up. Once they do it, you have a clear path walkway on ice. But, that pushes the snow to the sides where the carts are already buried in snow,” Phillips said.

“These guys literally have to dig ‘em out, pull ‘em out or bend the carts over, reach inside and pull the bags out. It’s not a real pretty job. You’re talking about four-foot drifts. There could be injuries.”

Phillips harkened back to a 2008 inspector general’s report that concluded Chicago was wasting $21 million-a-year on garbage collection crews “paid to do nothing” for 25 percent of their time on the clock.

“When a guy does something wrong or is caught sleeping, it makes headlines. But, nobody pays attention to how hard these guys work and how tough their job really is, especially in conditions like this,” he said.

During another briefing on blizzard clean-up at the city’s 911 emergency center, Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Tom Byrne refused to say when alleys would be clear.

He would only say that garbage trucks were attempting to force their way down snow-packed alleys to pick up trash and lay a path that would allow homeowners to either get their cars out of their garages or drive vehicles back into them.

“We’re meeting constantly about the alleys. We’re getting a lot of inquiries about alleys, and we’ll do our best to track those alleys and get them so we can get the garbage trucks in and get the garbage picked up,” Byrne said.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.