Baltimore Can’t Make Weekly Trash Pickups Even With $631 Million Budget

baltimore pick up trash
Flickr user: Doc Searls Maywood, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

By Adam Andrzejewski for RealClearPolicy

The Baltimore Department of Public Works, well-funded with a $631 million budget, can’t find the time nor the resources to make weekly recycling pickups, despite a legal mandate to do so.

A local group, Concerned Citizens of Baltimore, has joined a lawsuit against the Baltimore mayor and city council, alleging a biweekly pickup of trash to be a breach of the Baltimore City Charter, which guarantees weekly service. If successful, this lawsuit would compel the city to reinstate its weekly pickup service.

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Baltimore’s Department of Public Works certainly isn’t short on cash, but blames staffing shortages for the pickup delay. The Department is one of the most well-funded in the city, with a total budget of $631 million in 2023. The waste removal and recycling segment specifically had a budget of $38.7 million.

Open The Books investigated Baltimore Public Works payroll and found workers’ compensation has grown exponentially. While their headcount from 2011 to 2022 remained relatively flat, payroll increased from $84 million to $141 million. Adjusting for inflation, that $84 million should have increased only to $103 million, meaning salaries have far outpaced inflation.

Concerned Citizens of Baltimore have also pointed out that the City of Baltimore received $641 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, which could have been used to supplement the Public Works Department and ensure recycling service continued weekly.

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When a major city like Baltimore can’t use hundreds of millions of dollars to guarantee a service as simple and fundamental as recycling, how can it tackle bigger issues like crime and debt?

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