By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Montclair will resume recycling pickup starting on March 15, after a weeks-long suspension caused by coronavirus cases among public works employees.

On March 11, the township announced that enough employees had returned to work that recycling would be able to resume the following week. 

“The Council and I thank our residents for their patience and understanding during the interruption of our recycling collection,” Mayor Sean Spiller said in an announcement from the township. “We are grateful that our employees are back in good health and can continue to provide this essential service to the community.” 

The township suspended recycling on Feb. 24, because too many employees had either tested positive for the virus or had to quarantine after contacts with others. Township garbage collection continued.

Residents were allowed to drop off recycling at the Division of Community Services yard on North Fullerton Avenue, normally just open on Saturdays. The township first opened up hours on Wednesdays, but residents coming to the center at times experienced long waits and heavy backups. On one day in March, residents reported that the lines for recycling drop-off stretched around the corner from the DCS yard to Chestnut Street. In response to the high demand, the township opened up hours on Fridays as well.

The township told residents at the time that it had reached out to private haulers to help with the backup, but that several of those haulers were experiencing staff shortages as well. Officials also said they considered reducing twice-weekly garbage pickup to one day a week, but they still didn’t have the manpower and equipment to do recycling pickups even with those changes. 

Starting next week, the Wednesday and Friday drop-off service hours that have been offered during the pickup suspension will be discontinued. Extended Saturday hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. will continue on March 20 and 27. Starting on April 3, the township plans to return to normal Saturday drop-off hours, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

The resumption of recycling pickup service comes even as Montclair Township warned employees this week it had seen an increase in outbreaks among municipal personnel. It wasn't clear in a March 8 notice from Health and Human Services director Sue Portuese whether that was in reference to the Department of Community Services, or further outbreaks that could affect more departments.

“Whether transmission is occurring within the workplace or from external sources, we are reminding you not to be complacent in following the protocols that have been in place to protect yourselves,” Portuese wrote.

Montclair has seen a seeming uptick in coronavirus cases community-wide, with the township’s health department reporting 31 new cases between Monday and Tuesday of this week. The seven-day period leading into Thursday saw 82 new cases.

By contrast, weekly township reports from recent months typically show new case counts in the mid-40s to high-60s. Montclair’s last similar spike was in the week from Jan. 24 through Jan. 30, when it registered 99 new cases.