When it comes to managing waste in the Keys, it really is about public health and safety

August 12 – Thanks to great teams working together, waste management in the Keys can really be something to be proud of.

Greg Sullivan, Senior District Manager of Waste Management for Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what his department really does.

With the start of school this week, Waste Management is on the lookout for additional traffic and little ones waiting for school buses.

Sullivan said, “We do our daily driver meetings in the mornings and for the last few days, that’s been our topic of the day, you know, watch out for the school buses and watch out for the children out there because, especially the younger ones, they might night be as aware and of course, they’re anxious to go to school, they’re anxious to get on the bus, so obviously we want to take every precaution we possibly can to keep those people safe.”

In terms of recycling, it really should be left to the professionals.

A man in Marathon was arrested recently for operating a recycling yard illegally.

Sullivan said, “There’s a lot more that goes into the waste and recycle business than folks think. There’s a lot of permits required, a lot of record keeping required and those kind of things. Some people just take advantage of what’s out there and then they don’t follow the rules. I was glad to see justice was done and followed up on.”

Waste Management for Monroe County covers recycling and waste removal for both the Upper and Lower Keys.

Hurricane damage can be an issue with waste management.

Sullivan said, “If you’re going to do a cleanup or you have something in your backyard you’re not sure you want to get rid of, don’t wait until the last minute because it’s physically impossible to get things picked up. So prepare now. Get a hold of your landscaper, your tree trimmer or if you’re going to do it yourself, obviously do it yourself, but don’t wait until the last minute when there’s a storm out there to put things up because there’s probably a very, very, very good chance we’re not going to be able to service it and then what happens is the debris that you put out there becomes a problem for either yourself or your neighbors or traffic or clogs up a storm drain or something like that.”

Not just everything can be put out for trash pickup. The monthly rates are not for large items.

Sullivan said, “You can’t just unload your house. You need to schedule a pick up and of course there’s a fee for that. The occasional piece of furniture or appliance is one thing, but a whole truck load is not included in your regular service. Nor is a big pile of yard waste or any kind of construction debris. Just be conscious of your neighbors. We all want our places and streets and neighborhoods to look neat and clean. It’s not up to just one person or one city or county commissioner, it’s up to the individual homeowners to do the right thing.”

The rising cost of inflation in the country can make fueling the Waste Management fleet difficult.

Sullivan said, “We’re partners with both the city of Key West and the county and Islamorada in the service and we work with them to set different rates. We’ve gone to them for some relief and they’re working with us as we speak. It’s a good partnership we have with these folks we’ve been working with them for quite a long time. They’re in the same business. They have fleets and they have fire trucks and police cars and all kinds of vehicles. So they’re well aware of what’s going on. This is not a surprise to anyone. We work close with them and we work together very well.”

Waste Management is a large national company, but local partnerships are important, especially in the Keys.

Sullivan said, “We’re an important utility because obviously you don’t want trash piling up for health and safety reasons. The way our contracts are structure, we’re not a private service in a sense that we work with individual customers. We work for the municipality. So we work close with them. We talk constantly and take care of issues and solve problems and pretty much understand where things are coming from both sides. So it’s transparent and it’s very, very fair and it’s a good situation for the residents because the rates are cheaper when we deal on large volumes like this.”

Another issue in this economy is staffing and Waste Management still has three or four openings right now for drivers and equipment operators.

Sullivan said, “We just increased our housing allowance. We’re fortunate that we’re a large company so we have very good health benefits, 401K and those kind of things to help recruit people.”

The cost of living in the Keys can make it difficult to retain the workforce.

Sullivan explained, “That’s another reason why we work with the municipalities because we don’t have the luxury of being shorthanded. We have routes that have to get done every day in order to keep the trash moving.”

Potential employees can be trained as drivers for Waste Management.

A CDL training program has been set up through a local college in the Keys and Waste Management also has a boot camp in Fort Myers for two weeks to attend a safety program and fully understand how the trucks operate. They need to come back with a passing grade in order to operate the truck.

Anyone interested in joining the Waste Management workforce, call 305-296-8297.