Clash between Waste Management, Wyandotte County could affect thousands of customers

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Trash customers in Wyandotte County might be caught in the middle of a trash dispute.

Waste Management, the trash pickup giant, has threatened to discontinue service to the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, saying the Unified Government has violated their contract repeatedly.

This dispute means 51,000 Waste Management customers might soon be forced to seek a new trash and recycling pickup service.

An ultimatum has been sent by Waste Management’s leadership team to the Unified Government, giving county leaders until March 22 to satisfy some demands.

Waste Management’s spokesperson said those needs were promised to them in a contract, and if they aren’t met, the company will begin the process of phasing out trash pickup. The Unified Government’s department of public works was notified via mail within the past seven days.

“We’ve made it clear what we’re going to continue to pick up and and when we’re going to continue to pick it up,” Paul Howe, Waste Management’s director of community relations, said Friday.

Howe said underpayment is a big concern for Waste Management’s leaders. The company said in 2019, Unified Government leaders underpaid their bills for residential trash collection by $450,000.

County leaders told FOX4 News they’ve worked with Waste Management to rectify any complaints they’ve received.

“We’re waiting for a proposal to come back from the UG. We submitted a letter to them with our expectations. Now, we’d like to see if they have a proposal. If not, we’ll let the legal course take its course,” Howe said.

Unified Government’s leaders contend that Waste Management’s complaints are invalid, and they’ve received complaints about the company’s trash pickup service.

The existing contract between the two parties is supposed to run through 2032, and it represents $140 million in business.

“There were a variety of issues, including missing someone’s trash and it being on the curb for days and it being all over the county,” Jeff Fisher, the Unified Government’s Director of Public Works, said. 

“The UG has gone above and beyond to help them address those issues with things like adjusting the routes to be more efficient and we give them direct access to our 311 systems, so when we get a complaint, they see it automatically."

Fisher said the two sides have met numerous times, and he’s optimistic they can settle this dispute. He and Howe agree that an interruption in residential trash service will not happen.

Residential trash pickup in KCK costs each taxpayer $15 per month.

“For the customer, I think it’s important for them to know that it’s our desire — and we’ve committed to working through a transition for the customer. We’ll let the legal take its course,” Howe said.

“We want citizens out there to know Waste Management is picking up trash. You should continue to put your trash and recycling at the curb on your normal day,” Fisher said.

Howe added that if the two sides were to permanently dissolve this contract, Waste Management would work with existing customers to ensure their trash would be picked up.

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