Raleigh trash volume increases 30% as sanitation workers adjust working conditions to fight COVID-19

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Since Gov. Roy Cooper's stay-at-home order went into effect last month, the City of Raleigh said the volume of trash has increased 30 percent. Right now, sanitation workers are taking precautions to stay safe during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Alphonzo Hedgepeth, a 16-year veteran garbage collector said he is not messing around with COVID-19.

"I sanitize everything. Every time I get out the truck. Before I get out-I hand sanitize," said Hedgepeth.

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Hedgepeth and more than 150 of his colleagues with the City of Raleigh are also on the front lines of the virus.

"We're glad to have a job," said Hedgepeth.

The average sanitation worker makes nearly $40,000 a year in Raleigh, and their essential job these days is becoming more physically and mentally challenging. In March, the NC Public Service Workers Union said a Raleigh sanitation worker, Adrian Grubbs, died from complications due to the novel coronavirus.

'We've had other diseases but this has really been a shock to everybody," Hedgepeth said.

Raleigh Solid Waste managers estimate sanitation workers come into contact with one million surfaces each week, increasing their chances for COVID-19 exposure.

To ease concerns, three person crews have been reduced to two, and shifts are staggered. Trucks and vehicle keys are also cleaned daily.

Additionally, each employee receives a wellness check before work, masks, multiple latex gloves and work gloves, and hazmat-style suits with boot covers.

In Raleigh, 140,000 homes are serviced each week by sanitation workers.

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People can help keep them safe and their neighbors by cleaning garbage handles, and not putting trash on top of bins.
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