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'We have not left a route on the ground': How is Ryland's trash pickup working out for Macon a year later?

At one point in the trash pickup woes, Mayor Lester Miller even picked up recycling himself.

MACON, Ga. — About a year-and-a-half ago, trash troubles in Macon-Bibb County had many folks riled up.

Missed pickups led to garbage piling up all over the city. Then-trash contractor Waste Management blamed staffing shortages for the delays. At one point, even Mayor Lester Miller got involved. He announced in summer 2021 that he and his staff would start picking up recycling themselves to fill service gaps.

Eventually, Dublin-based Ryland Environmental stepped in full time. Now, with a year under their belt, we checked in to see how things are going.

"We had to hire 70 people in 30 days. And because then, we had to bring those people in and train them," recalled James Lanier, a managing partner at Ryland.

It was a quick transition that was never supposed to happen.

"Prior contractor had fallen behind. Macon-Bibb thought it would be a good idea to bring in someone to help them in the interim," he explained.

In came Ryland to bolster trash pickup in south Bibb County. Lanier says it helped, but it was only supposed to be temporary.

"Unfortunately, the rest of the part of the town didn't experience an improvement in service," he said.

Soon after, Ryland became the pick for the new trash contract. They took over full-time January 3, 2022. Lanier says the switch wasn't easy.

"It happened to be in the middle of the supply chain issues, where getting parts in on time and getting trucks in in time was hard," Lanier said.

The trash tribulations didn't stop for a while. For months, Maconites had problems even getting a trash can. Lanier says there's a reason for that.

"Macon-Bibb was being billed for 46,000 customers," Lanier explained.

They only planned for 46,000 trash cans. Lanier says they ordered extras to be safe, but it wasn't enough.

"We had delivered 52,000 residential carts, on top of the recycle carts," Lanier said.

He says the miscalculation stemmed from outdated counts from Waste Management. With another 6,000 customers came more problems, too.

"You've got to add routes. You've got to adjust routes so the trucks can get the route completed in a timely manner so they can get to the landfill to empty," Lanier said.

He believes the issues are mostly gone, but he says there's always room to grow.

"Thank goodness, knock wood. We have not left a route on the ground since we started, and that's something a lot of people can't say," Lanier said.

They're looking to keep it that way, but Lanier warns they may have to fine-tune some routes down the line. That could lead to missed pickups here and there.

If you do have a missed pickup or another trash problem, you can put in a request online at maconbibb.us/seeclickfix.

Lanier says that's the central place to report issues, but there are a couple different teams that handle those requests. If you need a trash can or recycling can, the county will handle the delivery. If you have a concern about service, it goes straight to Ryland. Lanier says if you have a service issue and it isn't resolved in a day or two, call the office at (478) 812-5280, and he'll get it handled.

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