Ray’s acquisition, transition behind Johnson County trash delays

Trash pick-up woes have persisted for months in Franklin and other central Indiana areas in the midst of a transition period from Ray’s Trash Service to Waste Management.

Houston-based Waste Management officially purchased Indianapolis-based Ray’s Trash Service in early September — taking over central Indiana’s largest trash and recycling provider. The company offers waste management, recycling services and document-destruction services in 17 central Indiana counties, including Johnson County. The company is the contracted trash provider for the city of Franklin and picks up trash for other areas of Johnson County.

With these changes, some trash pickup delays have impacted Franklin, and other areas in the county Waste Management took over service for in September. Delays were also reported across Indianapolis and other surrounding counties.

Franklin officials are working closely with both companies as the transition progresses, Mayor Steve Barnett and city engineer Mark Richards said. Pick-up delays have not been as severe in Franklin as in some areas such as Hendricks County, where Indianapolis media outlets have reported some customers were missed for days or even weeks, they said.

City officials have a direct line to local management and feel the company has been transparent with them about the barriers to timely trash pickup. To help residents, the city offered the opportunity to report problems to the city’s utility billing office, which can then communicate concerns to the company and get problems addressed, Barnett said.

Equipment problems and staffing shortages are behind the issues locally, city officials have been told.

City officials were originally told last year that Ray’s had planned to buy new trucks with mechanical arms to streamline trash pick-up. But there was a problem buying new trucks and instead used trucks were put in service. Those trucks are a major reason trash pick-up has been delayed with Waste Management recently. Another problem is workforce shortages, which are at least partially due to differences in standards between the two companies, city officials said.

Waste Management officials said one of their key goals during the transition is improving local assets to provide more consistent service.

“A key area of focus as part of this transition is acquiring new, WM trucks as part of WM’s strict safety standards to ensure employee and community safety. The local team has been working diligently to replace assets, and currently has several rental trucks on the road to help keep service as timely as possible. Currently, 75 trucks are either received or in transit to support the Indianapolis area,” officials said in a statement.

The transition has included a “focus on streamlining operations, equipment, technology, and service to keep safety at the forefront of all that we do,” the statement said. During the transition, a mix of Ray’s and Waste Management equipment is being used as the company works to put Waste Management branding on former Ray’s trucks, buildings and other assets, Waste Management officials said.

When the transition is complete, all trucks will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology that provides GPS tracking and instant routing notifications to ensure safe and timely service, Waste Management officials said.

The company makes safety a core value and is working to ensure that all operating protocols, including employee safety and assets exceed industry safety standards, Waste Management officials said.

Franklin officials have noticed an improvement in services as the transition has unfolded and feel services are on their way to normalizing, they said.

City officials have also taken this opportunity to revisit the terms of the city’s trash pick-up contract, Barnett said. Originally, Ray’s would only agree to pick up one heavy trash item under the new contract, but Waste Management has agreed to up it to two items per heavy trash day, Barnett said.

Another concession is allowing customers to use a smaller 64-gallon trash can, whereas before customers were required to use the company-provided 96-gallon can. Customers will be charged the same rate regardless of the size of can they use, Barnett said.

In early February, customers can expect full integration into the Waste Management suite of customer communications, officials said. Customers will have access to a variety of tools, such as viewing pickup and holiday schedules, among other services. Waste Management officials encourage former Ray’s Trash Service customers to visit wm.com/us/en/rays-trash to learn more about the company and what they can expect in the coming months.

With any service issues, customers may contact Ray’s Trash Service directly at 317-539-2024 or 800-531-6752, or by emailing [email protected].

“During this transition period, the WM team commits to working alongside customers to get their accounts serviced both safely and efficiently,” Waste Management officials said in a statement. “Waste Management sincerely apologizes for the delay in service related to the Ray’s Trash Service transition and expects significant improvement in the coming weeks, including an increase in customer communications.”

The Indianapolis Business Journal contributed to this report.