Change in IW garbage contractors results in missed pickups

Published 10:37 am Friday, July 14, 2023

GFL Environmental is off to a rough start taking over curbside trash pickup in Isle of Wight County.

When Joe Nichols of Days Point Lane put his garbage can out on the street July 7, it sat uncollected for five days.

He says it took him three tries to get in touch with GFL by phone.

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Todd Shawver, a resident of the Wrenn’s Mill neighborhood, has a similar story.

After his and his neighbors’ garbage cans sat uncollected over the weekend, he called GFL on July 10, and says he was told the company was “still trying to figure out the routes.” Garbage cans were “overflowing” by the time GFL finally arrived on July 12 to empty them, Shawver said.

Isle of Wight supervisors voted April 20 to offer a five-year exclusive franchise agreement to GFL starting July 1, replacing its previous franchise agreement with Bay Disposal in place since 2013. The franchise agreement, according to the county’s website, is intended to provide Isle of Wight residents living outside the towns of Smithfield and Windsor with a “competitive rate” for curbside garbage collection in lieu of having to take waste to one of the county’s eight refuse and recycling centers.

J.T. Howington, general manager of GFL’s Chesapeake branch, told supervisors July 13 that his company’s difficulties in providing timely pickup stem from Isle of Wight having roughly 1,800 more customers than GFL expected.

GFL had anticipated serving roughly 3,000 Isle of Wight households, but 4,834 had signed up as of July 13, Howington said. A list of addresses previously served by Bay also had discrepancies, he said.

GFL has sent additional garbage trucks and personnel to the county, Howington said, in hopes of providing same-day pickup to any residents who call to report their garbage wasn’t collected on the scheduled date.

To address the company’s responsiveness to the volume of phone calls it has been receiving, GFL is asking Isle of Wight residents to report a missed pickup by calling 757-487-2200 and pressing “3” on the resulting menu. GFL will field calls from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

“I recognize that this has not been a smooth transition,” Howington said.

Isle of Wight’s former Bay customers who now contract with GFL shouldn’t see a significant change in what they’re spending per month for curbside collection.

In exchange for exclusivity, GFL offered a $14-per-month rate, which is lower than the $17.96-per-month rate Bay quoted the county for renewing its contract. Bay had previously charged residents $13.61 per month under the 2013 agreement. The $14-per-month rate is what curbside customers pay directly to GFL. The company, in turn, pays the county $1 per customer per month for exclusivity.

GFL’s accepted bid specifies an incremental rise in its customer rate annually, so that by 2028, customers are paying $17.02 per month. The contract specifies a term of July 1 of this year through June 30, 2028, with the option to extend through June 30, 2033.

The towns of Smithfield and Windsor each still separately contract with Bay for curbside collection. Smithfield residents have reported similar difficulties this year with Bay regarding missed pickup dates.

Brian White of Cypress Run Drive said his street’s trash went uncollected for three weeks in April and was missed again in early May. Town Manager Michael Stallings attributed the issues to equipment malfunctions and a driver shortage, though he contended Bay had resolved the issue in May by hiring additional drivers.