COVID-19 response? Landfill usage shows SF residents cleaning, remodeling Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sioux Falls residents seem to be showering less in the morning and driving less, so what are they doing during the day?

Data from the City of Sioux Falls indicates residents are spending some of a day cleaning out houses or garages and doing some remodeling.

Information from the city shared earlier this month by KELOLAND News indicated the city wasn’t experiencing the typical workday morning water use and that traffic volume had been reduced at five major intersections in the city.

Donny Kuper, the city’s landfill supervisor, said the city is noticing an uptick in landfill use.

“People are staying home, they aren’t working or they are working from home. They have a little bit more time on their hands,” Kuper said.

Garbage being dumped at the Sioux Falls landfill in 2019.

The construction and demolition area of the landfill is busier. “People are remodeling the bathroom, building a deck, cleaning out the garage…,” Kuper said.

“We’re seeing about a 400 ton increase from 2019 to 2020 for the month of March,” Kuper said of disposed construction and demolition material.

“It’s really only been the fourth week since the pandemic hit us,” Kuper said.

He expects the tonnage in construction and demolition debris to increase in April.

The public drop off site nearly doubled in use from the customer numbers in March 2018 to the same time period this year.

The city had 2,900 customers in March 2018 compared to 5,700 in March 2020, Kuper said. The number is 1,800 less than a high month in March 2019, Kuper said.

Flooding in the city was a big reason why 7,500 customers used the public drop off in March 2019, Kuper said.

Apparently, Sioux Falls residents weren’t that busy in their yards in March.

“We are not seeing a huge increase in yard waste,” Kuper said. “We are seeing a little bit of an increase in tree waste.”

The landfill is still receiving an average of 750 to 800 tons of municipal solid waste each day from 18 private hauling companies in the area, Kuper said.

There has been shift from business and commercial garbage to more residential garbage, he said.

The landfill operation has been designated an essential service. Kuper said safety precautions are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to and from the public and to protect employees.

“It’s forced us to be more efficient and innovative,” Kuper said of COVID-19 response.

The landfill operations will soon get a new credit card system that will allow the customer to swipe a card. Staff won’t need to touch the card. Now, staff are asking the public to not hand financial cards to staff and to punch in the account numbers themselves.

The city also postponed the normal April date for the landfill free pass in response to the pandemic. A date has not yet been set.

Courtesy of the Sioux Falls sanitary sewer website.

Other measures include rotating public drop off days to every other day. Haulers, public customers and staff area also advised to practice physical social distancing.

Disposal areas are big enough to allow for plenty of social distancing between public customers and waste haulers, Kuper said.

“We definitely need everybody to stay safe and healthy,” Kuper said.

Safety is also one reason why the city is asking residents to put trash cans and recycling cans on the curbside. The city council passed an emergency ordinance to allow trash to placed at the curb.

Garbage companies don’t want employees to contract COVID-19, Kuper said.

Curbside placement reduces exposure and saves time, he said.

“They can get through rotations more quickly and efficiently,” Kuper said. Garbage haulers have reported a 40% time savings per pick up with curbside placement Kuper said.

“It’s a huge time savings,” Kuper said.

Curbside pick up is a prevention measure but it would also be beneficial if companies did have employees out sick Kuper said. Routes could still be completed in good time with fewer employees, Kuper said.

The landfill operation has 23 total employees. Four full time scale operators and one part time operator, 12 full time equipment operators, two part time equipment operators, one operations manager, one landfill supervisor and two landfill environmental technicians.

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