Why is trash removal taking so long in Detroit?

Why is trash removal taking so long in Detroit?

Flooding and labor shortages have caused obstacles for trash and recycling pickup.

detroit trash removal

I’m sure many of you have watched (or rewatched several times, as I have) the 2011 film “Contagion” since the onset of the pandemic. And if you’re like me, you’ve listed all of the doomsday things that happened in the thriller and compared it against what we’ve been dealing with. Widespread quarantine? Check. Food shortages? Check. Misinformation spread by a conspiracy theorist blogger about a cure? Checkmate.

Well, it’s time to think about checking “garbage piling up on the streets” off the “Contagion” bingo card.

I started noticing the issue about a month ago, after June storms left thousands with flooded basements and piles of crap left on the curbs. My recycling bin, and the bins of all of my neighbors on a block in Southwest Detroit, weren’t being picked up by the service provider, GFL Environmental, on scheduled Mondays.

I’ve since called GFL three times to find out what’s the deal. A phone conversation with a GFL representative on Tuesday of this week revealed that the city-contracted company has been experiencing a labor shortage. The rep said they would send out a truck as soon as possible.

But this isn’t just an issue on my block. Residents in Green Oak Township, Livonia, South Lyon and Novi have also experienced long delays in getting their trash removed by GFL. A GFL Environmental USA’s director of government affairs told Hometown Life in an email that in addition to an industry-wide labor shortage, the entire trucking industry has been disrupted because of a global crisis in the supply chain that makes truck parts.

Meanwhile, here in the Motor City, Detroit press secretary Georgette Johnson told me in an email that GFL — as well as the city’s other provider Advanced Disposal — were caught up and on schedule as of Wednesday morning.

Johnson blamed the delays on the high volume of bulk debris requiring pick-up post-flood, saying the services were “slightly behind schedule” on Tuesday. She advised that workers have been scooping up storm debris daily and will continue to do so until Sept. 3 when operations return to normal and enforcement resumes.

“Since the June 25-26 flood, our contractors have picked up more than 60 million pounds of flood debris, in addition to weekly container collection,” Johnson wrote in the email. “We’re asking residents to be patient and know that our schedule is caught up, but whenever there is a delay, we will catch it up the next day.”

She also says that anyone with questions or requests can call 313-876-0004 or use the Improve Detroit App to report any issues.

The recycling on my block still had not been picked up as of Wednesday evening. But enough about me — please let us know if you’ve experienced similar slow trash or recycling pickup. We’ll stay on top of the issue and see if things get “back to normal” trash-wise by Sept. 3.