Private trash pickup starts next week in Detroit

May 2, 2014

Detroit is following through on its effort to privatize garbage collection.

Starting next week, a private contractor will pick up the trash for some Detroit households on the city’s east and southwest sides. Another company will start serving the rest of the city early next month.

Gary Brown, Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s chief operating officer, says the new system will offer more services at roughly the same cost.

“We’ve got in the contracts that they’ve got to pick up trash whether it’s in front of a vacant lot, whether it’s in front of a vacant house, whether it’s in front of a park,” Brown says. “You put that trash at the curb, and that whole area has to be cleaned up.”

Brown says that for the first time, all Detroit residents will be able to opt into curbside recycling service for a one-time, $25 fee. Bulk trash pick-up will be offered every other week, rather than every 3 months.

“We couldn’t have done that with city workers,” Brown says. “The service is going to be so greatly improved going forward, that I think Detroiters are going to be very pleased in six months after they get up and running.”

125 of the city’s 190 current garbage collectors have taken jobs with the private contractors.

However, Brown admits the city has experienced delays in garbage pickup over the past week.

Some city officials and reports have blamed workers taking “sick-outs” en masse before the system changes hands.

Brown says there’s some truth to that, but it also has to do with equipment problems – and the city doesn’t want to spend money fixing up garbage trucks it’s about to auction off.

While Brown acknowledges the current delays might cause “a little inconvenience,” he says the city is making progress on the backlog, and should be caught up by the start of next week.