If Hurricane Irma proved anything about South Florida, it’s this: We got garbage. Lots of it.
With the massive and potentially catastrophic hurricane moving slowly all week toward the peninsula, people produced thousands of tons of waste — from yard clippings (that’s a no-no, for the record) to water heaters — for trash collectors to haul away.
In the city of Miami alone, people dumped some 650 to 750 tons of garbage a day as Irma approached, according to Solid Waste Director Mario Nuñez. To handle it all — and ensure trash didn’t become projectiles when winds picked up — his 300 employees were forced to work long hours.
“Typically, we collect around 360 tons per day. Our numbers, being on the conservative side, have doubled or tripled on a daily basis,” he said. “That also includes the numbers from our mini dump facility. The lines were as long as the gas stations.”
The city picks up bulk waste once a week. But not only were loads heavier this week: Nuñez said crews were having to go back to neighborhoods they’d already cleared to pick up new piles of trash.
“We were getting complaints from neighbors that some people were taking advantage and trimming their trees, dirt, rocks, tree leaves, two-by-fours, water heaters, you name it — anything that could become a projectile was put out on the swales,” he said.
To handle the load, Nuñez said, “we grabbed all the heavy equipment we have. I can easily tell you we have 90 pieces of equipment and another 50 light-duty vehicles and over 300 employees working 12 to 14 hours a day trying to catch anything that could blown away. Because of the [requirements for] FEMA reimbursement we were logging that information separately.”
Miami-Dade County had suspended bulky waste pickups by Wednesday.