Groot dumpsters behind a business on the 800 block of Howard Street. (RoundTable photo)

The City has had a long-running relationship with Groot Industries, the exclusive multi-residential waste-hauler not only for Evanston but a host of other neighboring communities.

Based in Elk Grove Village, the company handles waste hauling and recycling for commercial businesses, multi-family residences and apartments larger than four units, totaling more than 1,400 accounts.

That relationship, which dates back to 2008, may change, though, with officials looking to reach Climate Action Resilience Plan (CARP) goals related to recycling and composting – and finding the right company to work with them on those issues.

At the June 28 City Council meeting, officials recommended a one-year extension of the City’s contract with Groot, a change in past practice.

The length of a contract with a refuse-hauler like Groot usually runs five to seven years, “due to the investment that the service provider must provide to get the service operational,” David Stoneback, the City’s Public Works Agency Director, wrote in a memo.

“The service provider must deploy dumpsters, carts, equipment and personnel right away but distribute the cost for these items over the duration of the agreement.”

Officials are recommending staying with Groot for now, waiting for a new position in Public Works, to be called the Solid Waste Coordinator, to be filled.

The Coordinator’s responsibilities will include managing the City’s solid-waste contracts and agreements and leading the way to meeting CARP’s zero-waste goal.

“One of the goals listed in CARP is to increase the community-waste diversion rate to 50% by 2025 [and to] 75% by 2035 and have zero waste by 2050,” explained Mr. Stoneback in his memo. “A major factor in meeting these goals is to have better recycling and composting participation by the commercial properties serviced by the franchise service [now Groot].These commercial properties generate approximately 56% of the waste in Evanston but only divert approximately 9% of their waste from landfills. Approximately only 45% of the commercial properties recycle and only 2% compost.”

Once the Solid Waste Coordinator is on the job, “their top priority will be to prepare a request for proposal to go out to bid for…I assume a different scope of work that we’re looking for the next hauler to provide us,” Mr. Stoneback told Council Members.

Council Members were not ready to commit even to the one-year extension with Groot. They wanted staff to address some current issues with the company before approving the extension.

Council Member Devon Reid, 8th Ward, said in walks through alleys in his ward, he has found the refuse dumpsters serviced by Groot in poorer condition than bins in Chicago served by another company.

“Our bins almost universally have been chewed through” by various raccoons and rodents, he said, while the ones in Chicago “seemed fairly uniformly intact.”

In addition, he said, he has been receiving emails “which feels like several times a day,” particularly from residents on the west end of the ward complaining about rodents getting into bins.

“I’m wondering what we can do to get Groot to step up their game, and ensure that our bins are more secure, that they’re replacing bins that haven’t been worn out on a more regular basis,” he said to Mr. Stoneback.

Mr. Stoneback said the officials currently work with Groot, identifying properties that are overfilling their dumpsters and taking steps to correct the problem. As far as the condition of the dumpsters, he said the City can press Groot on the matter.

Officials receive monthly reports from the company and also meet on a quarterly basis, Mr. Stoneback said. He said the City also has sent some of its sanitation crews to check on the condition of dumpsters and making a list, “so as we become aware of those issues we have tried to address them.”

Mr. Reid asked that the contract extension be held over to allow more conversation with Groot.

“I would love to meet with them with a number of Council Members, whoever else shares this concern or have them come to the Council,” Mr. Reid said.

Mr. Stoneback suggested that he contact Groot officials and invite them to the July 12 City Council Administration & Public Works Committee meeting to respond to the concerns.

A phone call from the RoundTable ended with the reporter being placed on hold. As of the posting of this story, no one from Groot responded to emails from the RoundTable.

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.