Metro dealing with mountains of trash in Portland due to winter weather, COVID staffing shortages

Trash piles up a garbage station in Portland, Oregon. Metro, the agency that owns and operates two garbage and recycling stations, says it's all caused by COVID staffing shortages and recent winter weather that shut down I-84.

    PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) -- Portland is dealing with a massive backlog of trash.

Metro, the agency that owns and operates two garbage and recycling stations as well as hazardous waste facilities says it's all caused by COVID staffing shortages and recent winter weather that shut down I-84.

"The winter weather really hit us pretty hard," Metro Public Information Officer, Kimberlee Ables said.

As I-84 shut down due to blizzard-like conditions and later for a landslide, that put a halt on the trash system.

"Our landfills are in eastern Oregon so we really need to be able to access I-84 to get the trash out once it's brought in, and as you can see there's commercial trucks so the big garbage trucks are here as well," Ables said. "And this is where all your curbside pickup will come, and if they can't get it out then it just has to stay here until we can."

When that weather hit, Ables said trash wasn't picked up for a week and when it was it was double the amount.

But she said trucks couldn't get those loads out to Arlington, where the landfills are located in eastern Oregon.

"And so then we had full trucks stuck here, we had empty trucks stuck on that side and so the backlog just came through," Ables said. "And then once it finally did even reopen we had the landslide that closed it again and so all of these different interruptions to the system have really caused us this massive backlog."

FOX 12 got a tour of Metro's Central Transfer Station on Wednesday where mountains of trash are piling up and employees are trying to work through the backlog.

"One of our bays here at the Metro Central Transfer Station it typically houses wood waste and you wouldn't see any kind of this trash in this area, but we've had to move that out to make space," Ables said.

Metro says it could take four to six weeks to work through the backlog of trash.

It's asking the public to really be mindful of what you're throwing away.

It's also urging non-commercial customers to hold off on visits to transfer stations until further notice.

The Metro South Household Hazardous Waste Facility will be closed for several days due to Covid staffing shortages.

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