Pedal People trash collectors take extra caution during pandemic

View Photo Gallery
  • Gen Lin, a carrier with Pedal People, picks up waste on Monday, March 23.  Luis Fieldman photo

  • Gen Lin, a carrier with Pedal People, picks up waste on Monday, March 23. Luis Fieldman photo

  • Ethan Tupelo of Pedal People Cooperative transfers recyclables to a bin on his trailer during a route in the State Street neighborhood of Northampton on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ethan Tupelo of Pedal People Cooperative transfers trash and recyclables to his bicycle trailer on a residential stop on State Street in Northampton on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ethan Tupelo of Pedal People Cooperative checks his route list during a stop to pick up trash, recyclables and compost in the State Street neighborhood of Northampton on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ethan Tupelo of Pedal People Cooperative heads out to the next customer after a stop to pick up trash, recyclables and compost on State Street in Northampton on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ethan Tupelo of Pedal People Cooperative checks his route list during a route to pick up trash, recyclables and compost in the Prospect Street/State Street neighborhood of Northampton on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ethan Tupelo of Pedal People Cooperative heads out to his last two stops after making a pick up in a neighborhood off King Street in Northampton on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ethan Tupelo of Pedal People Cooperative pulls a load of trash, recyclables and compost down Bright Street in Northampton during his route on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer 
Published: 3/24/2020 2:48:33 PM

As Gen Lin strapped trash and recycling bins onto the trailer of his bicycle, he shrugged off the possibility of becoming severely ill from the new coronavirus. 

Lin, 37, of Greenfield, is a carrier for Pedal People, a worker-owned cooperative of waste-hauling bikers in Northampton, Lin begins picking up trash and recycling at 8:30 in the morning and finishes by 3 p.m. His level of concern in the face of the new coronavirus pandemic is one of being on alert — he is avoiding getting too close to people and he is more careful about how he handles trash. 

“I try to be cautious about how I handle some things,” Lin said on Monday morning, wearing heavy winter gloves. “Like tissues, if someone sneezed into that, they could be carrying it so I have to be cautious about that.” 

Pedal People sent out a notice on Monday to the organization’s 908 customers informing them that carriers will not be taking extra trash above the contracted amount. There will be no large special pick-ups, all trash bags must be closed, and customers are being asked to disinfect bins and trash cans. 

The collective is also asking its customers to notify carriers if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.  

Some of Lin’s co-workers have taken additional precautions amid the epidemic. He has noticed other co-workers wearing bandanas, scarves, and masks to cover their mouths. Some have even lathered cloth with essential oils, worn over their faces, to protect themselves against the virus. 

Lin’s concern for his own safety, however, remains pretty mild. 

“If I’m going to get it, I’m going to get it,” Lin said with a slight shrug, although he said he is more concerned about spreading it, and he is “not getting too close to people, especially older people.” 

Even if he caught the virus and got sick, Lin said he believes he would likely not get very ill, as he is young and healthy. It also would not be a financial disaster, he said. Lin would be paid during his time out sick, he has enough savings to rely on and to support himself, and he is hopeful to see a check from the federal government in the mail sometime soon. 

“I’m grateful for having a job,” Lin said. “I know so many people in the restaurant industry who suddenly don’t have a job.” 

On Monday, Ellen Clegg, another carrier with Pedal People, said she has seen a significant rise in the overall amount of trash collected. 

“More people are home, the amount of trash has increased significantly, and it's making our job more difficult,” said Clegg, who noted that a full load can weigh anywhere between 450 to 550 pounds. 

Since Northampton closed the transfer station on Locust Street on Wednesdays, which Clegg said is the largest hauling day for carriers, routes have become more complicated. 

“We have to re-route a lot of our Wednesday routes, so a lot of re-shuffling in terms of pick ups and schedules,” Clegg said. Pedal People use the city’s other transfer station on Route 10 to drop off trash and recycling. 

Pedal People has 24 total carriers. About three or four have left town, and one carrier has stopped working because they live with someone who has a compromised immune system, according to Clegg. 

On Monday, Pedal People received their first notice that a customer has tested positively for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. The group is still collectively putting together a policy on how to move forward, Clegg said. 

“We might put all those pick ups with a carrier willing to wear more safety gear than usual,” Clegg said. “We might create a special run or runs to go to those houses specifically.” 

It would take a significant reduction in healthy carriers to force Pedal People to discontinue, Clegg said, “If carriers start getting sick and we don’t have enough people to physically do the job.” 

“We haven’t made those decisions yet,” she said. “But we are beginning to talk about what we will do.” 

As a collective, Pedal People have decided to cover employees should they get sick for as long as necessary, Clegg said. 

A carrier who is a candidate for a doctorate degree at the University of Massachusetts is keeping track of information regarding how long the virus remains on surfaces as it becomes available, Clegg said. 

“I personally do the downtown trash route and bags are not sealed,” Clegg said. “But I use a cloth over my face with thieve’s oil,” referring to an essential oil which folklore dates back to the Black Plague in 1413. 

“Trash has never smelled so good,” Clegg said. 

For his part, Lin expects to keep going for the foreseeable future. 

Even on a cold morning with snow flurries, Lin said, “I love it,” as he finished securing the bins on his trailer. 

“I feel really good being outside,” he said. 

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com 




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2019 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy