New Orleans resident call out city’s garbage pile-up with ‘Trash Parade’

The city has received more than 9,000 calls about the trash crisis

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Garbage is piling up in New Orleans over three weeks after Hurricane Ida hit the region, and the residents have had enough.

The devastating tropical storm has caused a delay in trash pickup and residents are forced to live with piles of household trash that the city’s mayor has called a crisis, NBC affiliate WDSU 6 reports. Residents of New Orleans expressed their outrage by holding a “Trash Parade,” marching to City Hall on Saturday carrying protest signs and bags of trash.

New Orleans trash parade
(Credit: 4WWL CBS/YouTube screenshot)

“Please pick me up,” said one demonstrator who wore a brown bag over his face and went by the pseudonym “Mr. Smell E. Can,” per the report. “I have been really neglected. I have not had any contact with anyone for four weeks, and I smell bad.”

About 100 people donned costumes made of trash bags, with parade participants marching to City Hall from Elysian Fields and St. Claude avenues. WWNO’s Ryan Nelsen was at the protest and posted photos on Twitter.

“We’ve all been traumatized lately,” said Aaron Grant, who organized the Trash Parade. “We went through COVID. We went through the hurricane and now they’re asking us to patiently fester in a pile of garbage.”

Grant’s garbage has not been collected from his Marigny home for almost three weeks. He initially joked that he would organize a trash parade. “If [the waste] doesn’t get picked up by Wednesday,” he wrote Monday on Facebook, “I may organize the first annual Trash Parade.” 

The trash trucks missed his deadline – so locals helped Grant fully realize his “Trash Parade” vision.

The city has received more than 9,000 calls about the trash crisis, according to City Council member Kristin Palmer. City officials blame the collections delays on a nationwide labor shortage tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several of the participants in Saturday’s parade noted that the real issue is a matter of low wages. 

“We’re going to investigate and find out,” Grant said of the reason behind the trash collection delays. “We want to see the contracts.”

“These trash people definitely need to be paid a living wage,” Marigny resident Megan Brunious said.

“We just took out the trash for our neighbors yesterday,” Brunious shared. “There were maggots and piles of moldy rot. It was the grossest thing.”

The City Council reportedly called a meeting last week to discuss the trash problem. 

“Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced the city will be implementing a task force to pull city workers away from jobs like mowing grass and fixing roads to put them on collecting the trash,” NPR reports.

Metro Service Group was behind on garbage collections before Ida hit, as sanitation workers for the agency went on strike in May 2020. They called for a raise from $10 to $15 and weekly hazard pay amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the report, the strike ended in September, with some workers returning to the job while others quit altogether.

The company is reportedly attempting to boost hiring by increasing starting pay and incentivizing employees to take the experimental COVID-19 vaccine.

The city council is set to meet again on Tuesday to further discuss the next steps to rectify the trash pick-up delays. 

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