Keeping the community clean and inviting is a task that Starkville’s sanitation employees take on every day. What’s more, they collect the garbage produced in residents’ homes by hand — a method that allows for better and more personalized service.
Making four residential runs daily within the city limits using two-man crews, they physically pick up all non-hazardous garbage that is placed at the curb, something that Sanitation Director Chris Smiley says is a point of pride. They also provide specialized service for disabled residents, pick up larger yard waste or bulky household items with knuckle boom trucks and empty residential apartment dumpsters using commercial trucks.
“The feature that makes us unique as a municipality is that we believe in going the extra mile in providing exceptional quality-of-life service to our community,” said Smiley. “We tell our residents that if they can get their garbage to the road, we can pick it up. We do require that they place it in bags, but they are not required to have it in a can, and we provide bags as part of their sanitation fee each year.”
In 2022, the city changed the way in which the garbage bags were distributed to residents. No longer delivering them to each home or apartment, residents are now asked to visit the sanitation office once each calendar year to pick them up. Smiley said this new method cuts down on people not receiving their bags, helps control increased purchasing costs and informs future sanitation efforts.
“We’re always looking for effective and efficient solutions that meet the needs of all who make Starkville their home,” said Mayor Lynn Spruill. “That’s why we changed the distribution from delivery to pickup, because we found that in years past, some people were stealing the bags from others after they had been dropped off. By doing it this way, we ensure that our residents are receiving the bags as intended, and those not picked up are used for other purposes or saved for the following year, thereby saving money overall.”
Smiley said that after an initial adjustment period, many residents have embraced visiting the sanitation office during regular business hours to get their bags, helping his staff learn more about what is important to the community, and helping the community learn more about what his department does as a whole.
In addition to residential garbage pickup, the sanitation department provides commercial dumpster service, right-of-way service and recycling services. They do not pick up rubbish for businesses, churches or apartments.
Regarding recycling, the city offers multiple drop-off sites for its Think Green program. Launched two years ago as part of Starkville’s “Sustainable City Principles,” the program aims to improve access and convenience for residents who want to do their part in contributing to a cleaner, greener community.
When it comes to the future, Smiley said he is committed to keeping his department at full staff and staying on top of the latest industry trends so they can adapt as needs arise. For example, he noted that the tipper carts found in many cities around the country seem to be a growing request from newer residents who have relocated from elsewhere, including college-aged renters who don’t have the convenience of apartment complex dumpsters.
However, he added that the community’s older and more established residents overwhelmingly prefer the personalized, bagged service currently offered since it allows for more comprehensive garbage collection instead of limiting operators to picking up only what is placed in the carts, providing they’re correctly positioned at curbside.
Smiley said the Starkville fleet already is equipped with some of the latest technology designed to keep everyone safe. This not only includes cameras, but also GPS tracking to help with efficient routing and location monitoring.
“We’re constantly evaluating technology so that we can provide waste collection in the most modern, efficient and cost-effective way, while maintaining the level of service our residents have come to expect,” he said. “We all share a commitment to taking care of our community and working together to keep Starkville clean and beautiful.”
As the home of Mississippi State University, Starkville is always brimming with activities and excitement, from sporting events, concerts and festivals to vibrant Main Street dining and shopping attractions to the quaint and inviting Cotton District near campus. The city has evolved from one of Mississippi’s most scenic and historically significant locales into a dynamic and modern community that’s routinely named among the best places in America to live, attend college, own a business or retire.