Trash and recycling pickup days are changing in early November for 80% of San Antonio residents in an effort to streamline routes and reduce costs.

Uneven population growth and an increase in waste per household have caused some of the city’s solid waste and recycling route drivers to work overtime, sometimes rushing through to finish, said David Newman, director of solid waste management for the City of San Antonio.

Newman described the changes as ‘rebalancing,’ and said doing so is the alternative to purchasing seven additional garbage trucks at $400,000 each to keep up with demand.

Inflation is another big factor in the rebalancing effort, he said, as the department’s expenses have increased. That includes the disposal rate it pays the landfill, increased fleet maintenance costs and higher employee salaries.

In addition to tweaking existing routes, the department is hiring 15 more employees and adding an additional pickup day. Those changes will result in a shuffling of most customers’ pickup days.

Beginning Nov. 7, some residents who previously had trash pickup on Monday and recycle pickup on Thursday will see their services flip: they’ll have trash pickup on Thursday and recycle pickup on Monday. Other customers will have completely different pickup days.

Regardless of which new days they get, residents will have the same number of gap days between their collection days.

Collection services will be spread across five days instead of four, adding Wednesdays, but recycle pickups on Saturday will stop. Employees who worked Saturday collections routes were working overtime, Newman said. Brush and bulk pickup schedules will not change.

The changes come after the San Antonio City Council approved $722,000 for 15 additional side load equipment operators for fiscal year 2023. Those employees should help make collections go more quickly, Newman said.

Uneven population growth in newer neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city have made some drivers’ routes take much longer, Newman said, while the loads they’re picking up are 10% heavier since 2020, he said. 

“I don’t know if that’s because of more people working from home or multi-generations living at home, but for whatever reason, there’s more waste,” he said. The ten-hour days mean the city is paying about an hour and a half of overtime to drivers and collectors on those routes.

Rebalancing routes will make them shorter, lowering fuel costs and allowing employees to finish on time, avoiding overtime. It will also get trucks back to the maintenance department in time for them to be serviced. All that, in turn, will mean “more consistent and better service for our customers,” Newman said. 

Most residents seem to be taking the changes in stride. The announcement got few reactions on the solid waste department’s Facebook page, and a post noting the change on a South Side Nextdoor group got no comments, just a handful of smiley faces.

Still, some have expressed concern. Resident Mary Watson wrote in a Blossom Park Nextdoor post that she will “not be a happy camper” with the changes proposed for her address.

“I fail to see how changing any days provides any cost savings,” she wrote. “Still providing same service.”

For the past month, the department has hosted a series of open house events at its regional service centers, giving residents a chance to meet their collection team and ask questions about their service and the upcoming changes. The next open house will be held Saturday at the Southwest Service Center.

“I realize that change is hard,” Newman said. “But I believe [in] the benefits to our customers, to our employees and overall.”

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. A 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, her work has been recognized by the Texas Managing Editors. She previously worked...