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Detroit Seeks Privatization of Trash Collection, Could Save $15 Million

The city of Detroit is looking to privatize trash collection, hoping to improve residential services while saving $15 million a year. The city currently spends about $50 million a year on neighborhood trash collection. The move comes as the city faces the possibility of bankruptcy in coming months, according to the Detroit Free Press.

A contract with a private company is likely to include more frequent bulk waste pickup; frequency was reduced years ago in order to cut costs. Detroit will put out requests for proposals to private companies, though it is unclear when that will happen. However, the city has already held talks with Houston-based Waste Management and Phoenix-based Republic Services, both of which said they could offer weekly trash pickup and monthly bulk pickup, which is currently available only on a quarterly basis. They could provide these services for $15 million less than what the city currently spends, according to the article.

Privatizing trash pickup would affect as many as 150 people in the city’s workforce, including 60 to 70 drivers of trucks. Those workers are expected to be offered jobs by whatever company the city chooses.

The city collects about 400,000 tons of waste a year, according to a 2010 annual report from the city’s Department of Public Works (via Waste & Recycling News).

A lawyer for city unions has said that outsourcing could end up costing the city more than it is currently paying, despite the fact that the bids were significantly lower. But a spokesman for the city of Flint, which began outsourcing trash pickup in the spring with Republic Services, says the transition was seamless, most trash workers got jobs with Republic, and services improved.

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