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Update on alley trash pickup

By Dominik Stallings

Waste Management in Tuscola will no longer perform alleyway waste pickup starting Jan. 18. The company sent out postcards regarding the change the week of Monday, Dec. 26. The change could affect over 500 people.

David Schaab, municipal marketing manager for Waste Management, said that the trucks which pick up the waste with a grabber attachment are too large to effectively pickup up waste containers. Schaab said the company is using these larger vehicles to automate its processes to keep down costs. Schaab said the company is trying to standardize its services, which is part of the reason why they are stopping alley pickups.

He said this reflects a broader change in the waste pickup industry as more and more companies locally and nationally are switching to automated trucks, which allow the drivers to pick up trash without leaving the vehicle.

Schaab said that the contract between the city and Waste Management has always been a curbside pick-up policy. However, he was aware that Tuscola has had alley side pickup for several years now, making the changes difficult for many residents.

Next week, residents should start receiving “tags” on their waste containers to inform them to put their containers by the curb. Schaab said the tags will also have a 1-800 customer service number that residents can call if they are finding difficulties with the changed waste pick-up service.

Many residents in Tuscola have found issues with this “new” policy and commented on the City of Tuscola’s Facebook post regarding the service change. Some people commented that the city should change its service provider. However, Drew Hoel, city administrator, said that they have a contract with Waste Management until October 2025.

“We’re very aware that many people are upset over this. I understand,” said Hoel.

Tuscola is still facing the issue of how to best help residents with the change. Hoel noted that since Tuscola residents aren’t direct customers of Waste Management, residents have had issues contacting the company effectively due to the lack of an account number.

Schaab addressed this issue in the Jan. 9 City Council meeting. He said the company will create account numbers for each customer in the city and modify the hotline number to make it easier for residents to receive customer support.

Schaab said Waste Management would individually work with each customer to make the transitional process easier. The company would do this for customers who are infirm or disabled, but would leave it up to the city to make that distinction. Andrew Bequette said the city would not make the determination, either.

Hoel said that residents who have issues with getting their waste to the curb for whatever reason should call the number provided by Schaab, 1-800-796-8988, to receive help from Waste Management. Alternatively, if that doesn’t work, residents can contact the city, which will take their addresses and present them to Waste Management.

Other residents, such as Jerry Jones, spoke about this issue at the City Council meeting on Dec. 27, 2022, and Jan. 9. Jones said he has to walk almost 300 feet to bring his waste container to the curb due to his residence being on a zero-lot line.

“It’s like going down a football field,” said Jones.

Jones also questioned how Waste Management would pick up waste from houses that have cars parked on one side of the street.

Jones said that he has some friends that are disabled veterans who are in similar situations as him. Jones said he wants to fight for them so they can get better service.

Waste Management said they are changing the service to curbside-only to increase efficiency and decrease costs. Jones said it would be an economical move for the company but it most likely won’t mean a decrease in costs for the residents.

Schaab noted that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, at the beginning of the contract with the city, they have seen a weight increase for freight of 18 percent, which increases costs. They have also raised wages for employees to boost retention. This means they need to make their service more efficient to counteract the increased costs, since they can’t increase rates due to the contract, he said.

Council member Scott Day asked whether the city has to reluctantly agree to these changes or if there was a way for them to retain alley service. The city’s lawyer, Andrew Bequette said that he wouldn’t comment on the issue publicly.

“We’re trying to facilitate a solution for them, but we’re not completely in charge of that,” said Hoel.

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