New Trash Trucks Cause Layoffs of Handicapped Workers
MOBERLY - A dozen people with disabilities lost their jobs due to a change in the trucks that collect Moberly's trash and recycling.
"We have been forced to lay off 12 of our handicapped employees because we simply did not have the work," said Greg Kohls, manager of Randolph County Sheltered Industries.
Randolph County Sheltered Industries is a non-profit employer of disabled citizens.
"Our mission statement is to provide dignified employment to the handicapped or disabled in a safe environment," said Kohls.
About a year ago, Moberly hired Sheltered Industries to handle the city's recycling. Sheltered Industries hired several workers and invested $40,000 into its recycling plant because of the agreement.
But the company the city uses to collect citizens' trash and recycling recently made a change that Kohls says makes handling Moberly's recyclables dangerous.
Veolia Environmental Services recently made the change from using two trucks to pick up trash and recycling separately, to one that collects both in separate compartments. Its contract with the city does not specify how it must collect the trash.
"On the trucks they are using here in town, the truck is split. The container is two thirds for garbage and one third recyclables. So there is a panel, a divider, in the middle of the garbage truck," said Tom Sanders, head of Moberly Public Works.
The change means the truck compacts recyclables as well as trash.
Kohls says the proximity to the trash leads to contamination of the otherwise clean recyclable materials.
"The new collection method contaminates the materials, and we are not going to put our employees health at risk," said Kohls.
The Health Department inspected the recyclables the new trucks delivered to Sheltered Industries and told Kohls they were not safe to handle. Kohls told Veolia to stop bringing the recycling until a change was made.
Veolia Area Manager Dan Buckley said the trucks are the industry standard.
"The only difference in the form that it is being delivered is that it is being compacted. Is it any cleaner slash dirtier? I don't think so," Buckley said.
He said any contamination is from the public not properly cleaning out recyclables before they put them on the curb. He said the contamination may seem worse since the recyclables are now compacted in the truck.
"There is just such a large percentage of people that the recycling is just not as clean as they think it is," said Buckley.
Kohls said that is not the case.
"The material was clean when it got picked up and it got contaminated by their truck, by their collection method. I mean there is no way that is recyclable," said Kohls as he showed several photos he took of recyclables covered in sludge and mud.
Kohls met with an executive from Veolia last week.
"We are working with them hand in hand, and we are going to continue to work with them to find a solution," said Buckley.
Kohl's says he is hopeful the companies and the city will find a way Sheltered Industries can resume handling Moberly's recyclables. He said he wants to hire back the disabled workers he was forced to let go.
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