BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Following weeks of service disruptions due to a rise in COVID-19 cases among staff, the Department of Public Works will begin a bi-weekly recycling schedule starting Jan. 18, the agency said Wednesday.

In that first week, from Jan. 18-21, neighborhoods north of North Avenue will get their recycling collected on their normal day, meaning if your recycling is typically picked up on Thursday, crews will still come by on your house’s scheduled day.

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Neighborhoods on the A schedule won’t have their recycling collected again until the week of Feb. 1-4.

Residents living south of North Avenue will have their recycling picked up on the week of Jan. 25-28 and again on the week of Feb. 8-11.

“I want to thank Baltimore City residents for their patience as we have had to make hard choices while trying to navigate staffing challenges made worse by this recent spike in COVID-19 cases,” said Director Jason W. Mitchell. “This change to bi-weekly recycling collections will help the Department manage for the long-term. These modifications are essential to stabilize operations and ensure consistent, predictable, and sustainable services for residents.”

Over the last month, DPW said it has experienced “severe staffing shortages” due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. In a seven-day period during the holidays, an average of 228 employees were out; at one point, there were as many as 340 workers out, the department said.

The agency said it has also struggled to fill openings in its Bureau of Solid Waste, “as this work is labor-intensive.” According to job postings on the city’s site, solid waste workers are paid hourly and annually make between $35,099 and $38,176, and drivers annually make between $38,805 and $42,455.

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Recent winter weather has also created challenges to collecting recycling, leading to delays.

In the early stages of the pandemic, DPW suspended curbside recycling pickup in June 2020 and didn’t resume operations until Jan. 19, 2021.

Baltimoreans can also bring recycling to five drop-off centers open Monday through Saturday:

  • Northwest Transfer Station, 5030 Reisterstown Road
  • Quarantine Road Landfill, 6100 Quarantine Road
  • Northwest Residential Drop-off Center, 2840 Sisson St.
  • Southwestern Residential Drop-off Center, 701 Reedbird Ave.
  • Eastern Residential Drop-off Center, 6101 Bowleys Lane

Following Wednesday’s announcement, City Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer scheduled a hearing of the Rules and Legislative Oversight Committee to discuss “missed recycling collections occurring somewhat regularly over the last 6 months and recently more frequently.”

The hearing is scheduled for Thursday at 3 p.m.

Schleifer’s office said the councilman is calling for a detailed plan to resolving DPW’s recycling issues.

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Along with City Councilman Zeke Cohen, Schleifer has called for salary increases and bonuses for DPW employees who have worked throughout the pandemic, saying they are “grossly underpaid.”

CBS Baltimore Staff