Priority Waste to take over residential contracts from GFL

By: Kathryn Pentiuk, Nick Powers | Southfield Sun | Published July 1, 2024

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SOUTHFIELD — The lime green trucks picking up refuse in your neighborhood will soon be yellow.

Green For Life Environmental, the waste management company that has contracts with many municipalities in metro Detroit, recently sold the residential trash collecting assets to Priority Waste. News of the sale hit social media before GFL was able to put out its official statement.

“Social media got ahead of the process,” said Matt Allen, Priority Waste’s director of public relations and government affairs.

Metro Detroit communities will change over on July 1. Residents of these communities will still be able to use their GFL bins. Garbage collection dates will remain the same. The July 4 holiday will still cause a one-day delay of service. Allen said those who are having issues with GFL should continue to contact them until July 1. GFL will retain its commercial contracts.

“This sale encompasses assets and collection operations within Oakland, Washtenaw, Livingston, Macomb, Genesee, and Wayne Counties,” John Addison, GFL general manager for Wayne, stated in a letter to employees. “It includes the transfer of contracts with 75 municipal customers as well as 70,000 homeowner’s associations and subscription residential customers.”

Allen said talks for the acquisition began earlier in 2024. The Detroit transition to Priority Waste from GFL happened earlier in June. In Sterling Heights, the company is about a month into its changeover. According to Allen, the transition in both communities has gone well so far.

At Southfield’s June 17 City Council meeting, the council approved the assignment of GFL Waste Contract to Priority Waste.

“Obviously, this is a big transition, and we’re concerned. Priority Waste has hired a number of senior managers and staff members who will help smooth the transition,” Southfield City Administrator Fred Zorn said, explaining that Southfield went through a similar transition about eight years ago when they transitioned from Waste Management to GFL. “There could be a few hiccups, but we work our way through that, and usually, within a few weeks, you have most of them worked out.”

Zorn and other administrators toured Priority Waste’s office in Clinton Township and learned about the company’s utilization of technology.

“I think what’s really neat about this is their application of technology,” he said. “Priority Waste uses cameras on every truck. There’s computers in there. It’s all very modern. As they go through neighborhoods, things are filmed, and they know what they’re picking up. And if someone’s garbage cans aren’t there, it’s picked up on camera.”

Zorn added that the city is still on track for the bid awarded back in February to transition everyone from a 64-gallon trash bin to a 96-gallon bin in October. He added that both the recycling bins and the garbage bins will transition to the 96-gallon bin, and that the city wants everyone to use the same size garbage and recycling containers.

Hundreds of GFL employees impacted by the switch will be terminated, though they will be able to reapply for their jobs with Priority Waste.

“Our understanding is that Priority intends to extend offers to the majority of employees, as it will be imperative to maintain continuity of service,” Addison stated in the letter.

Allen said the company is working to make the transition a seamless process so there are no interruptions in service. He said the company has bought approximately 500 pieces of equipment from GFL. This equipment will be assessed by Priority Waste in the coming months.

“We’re going to do an overhaul of their fleet,” Allen said. “It’s a very deliberative process. We’re going to overhaul, rebuild, evaluate each one based on age and hours of running time.”

GFL did not respond to requests for comment at press time.

Southfield Residents can expect possible garbage and recycling pickup delays during the transitional period. Residents’ designated days will remain the same during the transition. However, pickup times may vary. All other rules for curbside collection will remain the same, such as placing trash at the curb after 4 p.m. in the afternoon before scheduled pickup and no later than 7 a.m. on the day of scheduled pickup. Additionally, yard waste must be in approved paper yard waste bags or containers, 32-gallon maximum, marked with a yard waste sticker. Yard waste in plastic bags will not be collected.

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