Waste Management transferred most of its residential business in Springfield to Republic Services because alleys made service to certain parts of the city inefficient, a company spokesperson said.
"Our company is moving more to automation," Lisa Disbrow, spokesperson for Waste Management of Illinois Inc., told Illinois Times on Feb. 6.
WM's increasing use of garbage trucks staffed with one person who drives and operates mechanical arms to pick up garbage containers has made it difficult to efficiently use Springfield's alleys to pick up trash in certain neighborhoods, Disbrow said.WM's estimated 7,000 residential customers before the change took effect Feb. 1 prompted calls to Springfield city officials even though the city apparently doesn't control when a private waste hauler can exit and sell its routes to a competitor.
Mayor Misty Buscher said she has asked her administration's legal department to look into the city's rights under local ordinances in these situations and whether any local laws need to be tweaked. The city does limit how much waste haulers can charge.
Effective Feb. 1, Waste Management "divested" of its residential services in Springfield to all customers at single-family homes and multi-family homes with three or fewer units. The company continues to serve residential buildings with four or more units in the city, as well as commercial customers, according to Kristina LoRusso, community program coordinator in the Springfield Office of Public Works.
Disbrow wouldn't disclose financial terms of the deal between WM and Republic but said customers automatically transferred to Republic in the deal are free to switch to Lake Area Disposal & Recycling, the city's third and only locally owned garbage hauler.
WM continues to serve other residential and commercial customers in the area outside Springfield's corporate limits, she said.
The city only learned of the change a few days before it happened, LoRusso said.
"It was a private business decision," she said.
Affected residents have been calling the city "because they're a little upset the change took place," she said.
Former Waste Management customers who called Republic's help line initially were told they couldn't switch their service, LoRusso said, but that guidance was false, and the WM call center since then has been providing correct information.
Republic officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Letters sent by Republic to former WM customers said their previous service days will continue as scheduled.
City officials said former WM customers are encouraged to retain the trash cans that WM provided.
"Republic Services will provide blue stickers to identify homes added to the new scheduled pickups," the city said in its online news announcements.
The Republic letter to customers said, "You may see changes to your service day or receive new recycling and solid-waste collection carts in the future, but we will let you know in advance of any changes."
The letter said people with questions about Republic Services should call 217-522-7797 or visit the company's website at RepublicServices.com.