By: The Altamont Enterprise
January 7, 2021
ALBANY — If customer service reps at Twin Bridges Waste & Recycling are looking to endear themselves to their newest clientele, they might want to think about signing up for The Altamont Community Facebook page.
Because when customers of Pollard Disposal Services, which was sold recently to the Clifton Park-based company, had a question, issue, or may have even forgot to put out their waste and recycling on time, they could hop online and direct their question toward a Pollard employee, who would answer the question or concern promptly or would tell the person he’d swing by after he finished to pick up the forgotten trash.
But given how customers found out who their new waste-and-recycling servicer would be, maybe give it a few days.
A number of village residents rang in the New Year with the surprise announcement that they would no longer be receiving their service from a company with a Main Street address. Altamont customers received letters with a Dec. 31 date notifying them of the change, which took place Jan. 1.
The letter from Mark and Wendy Pollard said in part, “We are writing this letter with excitement and dismay … It has come time to retire. The waste removal business is ever changing. New regulations and insurance requirements are weighing heavy on us.
“After looking around, we have decided to sell the waste company to Twin Bridges Waste and Recycling,” the letter went on to say that the Pollards had known Scott Earl, the owner of Twin Bridges, for a long time, and they know “he is able to carry the load from here.”
The Pollards could not be reached for comment.
In a New Year’s Eve post about Pollard on the Altamont Community Facebook page that stretched to 141 comments, people praised the couple and the company’s employees and wished them well but wondered what would happen with their service — approximately 10 people noted that they had either just got the letter in the mail that day, Dec. 31, or had yet to receive one.
John Brady, president of Twin Bridges Waste & Recycling, told The Enterprise that Pollard customers and their existing chosen billing cycle would be rolled over to Twin Bridges, and “we would ask if they had a contract with Pollard that they honor it,” but customers can walk away.
However, he went on, “There really wouldn’t be any reason for them to want to cancel, we offer great service.”
Depending on the chosen billing cycle, Pollard customers pay between $24 and $27.50 per month for service.
Brady said that the bin swap-out started this week and would likely continue into next. There would also be changes to pick-up days, he said, so that Altamont customers would fit into the company’s current routing. Letters were sent out to customers notifying them of that change, Brady said.
Twin Bridges didn’t absorb all 10,000 of Pollard’s customers, many of the company’s Schenectady County customers are now being serviced by Advantage Disposal, a local Schentady-based company.
Brady was asked about customers who, for example, may have signed up for a three-month billing cycle with Pollard and who will soon be in need of a waste-and-recycling hauler come March: Will those customers be able to take advantage of the wild deals Twin Brides has been offering elsewhere in the Capital Region — like a year of free service?
Brady said, “Depending on what our current promotion offer is, we would say the customer can, by all means, call in if they have any questions or if they’d like to discuss that, we’d be happy to talk to them.”
Brady estimated Twin Bridges services between 60,000 and 65,000 customers in the Capital Region — about six times as many customers as when Scott Earl bought the company about 18 months ago.
“The area was starving for quality service,” Brady said. Waste wars
Twin Bridges and its owner, Earl, are currently embroiled in a lawsuit with County Waste, a company that was started by Earl in 1990 and which he owned until April 2011.
In March 2010, Earl took a $35 million investment from a Toronto-based private-equity firm. The firm helped implement County Waste’s single-stream recycling program, a process that had been nascent at best in the Capital Region at the time.
The single-stream program allowed County Waste to handle recyclables in its own materials recovery facility (MRF). “It was a tremendous success in terms of increased recycling participation, the improvement in recycling rates, and the amount of material that flowed through the MRF once it was opened,” according to one investment-banker analysis.
In just over a year, the private-equity firm doubled the returns on its investment in County Waste, receiving $70 million after Earl sold his company to Waste Connections, the third-largest waste-and-recycling company in the country, for $299 million.
The Times Union first reported in August 2020 that Twin Bridges sought to capitalize on Waste Connections’ purchase of Robert Wright Disposal, a local trash-hauler based in Glenmont, by offering Wright’s customers a year of free service.
County Waste filed a lawsuit a few months later, alleging, among other things, that Twin Bridges exhibited a “pattern and practice” of making false statements in an attempt to win over customers; offered “improper inducements” so that County Waste customers would break their contract; and that Twin Bridges, in emails and fliers, made defamatory statements about County Waste, according to the court filing.
Just a few years after selling County Waste to Waste Connections, Earl was in federal court facing allegations that he had “concealed large and growing liabilities” to a self-insured workers’ compensation trust.
Waste Connections sought $32 million in damages, but the two sides “settled the 2014 federal lawsuit out of court, and Mr. Earl accepted all liabilities related to County Waste’s prior membership in the trust as part of the settlement,” according to the November 2020 County Waste court filing.
County Waste asserts that Earl “still harbors significant animosity and hostility toward Waste Connections and [County Waste] as a result of that lawsuit, as well as other disputes.” After the April 2011 sale, County Waste claims, Earl took his “hundreds of millions of dollars” and continued in the waste-and-recycling business, in Virginia and Pennsylvania.
“In late 2019, Mr. Earl stated publicly that he and his business partners had agreed to sell County Waste of Virginia and County Waste of Pennsylvania to GFL Environmental, Inc. (“GFL”) — which is based in Toronto, Canada and is one of the largest waste management companies in North America — for approximately $725 million,” according to County Waste.
Earl recently sold his County Waste of Virginia to a Canadian waste-management company, the fourth-largest environmental-services company in North America, for $485 million, according to the company’s own 2019 annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Earl then bought Twin Bridges in July 2019 for a song.
County Waste appears to be upset at Earl for being a shrewd businessman, because his “strategy for Twin Bridges is to expand its market share using whatever means are available, regardless of the lawfulness or propriety of those means, in the hopes that doing so will enable him to sell Twin Bridges to a purchaser, potentially GFL, for hundreds of millions of dollars, in the same manner in which he sold County Waste of New York in 2011 and County Waste of Virginia and Pennsylvania in 2019,” according to the November 2020 County Waste court filing.
Earl “has directed Twin Bridges, through its representatives and/or agents, to engage in a pattern of unfair, unlawful, fraudulent, dishonest, and deceptive conduct, including soliciting and inducing current customers of [County Waste] to breach their agreements with [County Waste] in order to enter new agreements with Twin Bridges, and otherwise unfairly competing with and defaming [County Waste],” the company claims.
County Waste, in over a dozen examples, alleges that Twin Bridges used a number of underhanded tactics to try and coerce its customers into signing on with Twin Bridges, including that County Waste was going out of business.
On Dec. 18, Twin Bridges filed a counterclaim against County Waste and its parent company, Waste Connections, claiming the multi-national company and its wholly-owned subsidiary “collectively engaged in anticompetitive and tortious conduct in an attempt to monopolize the Waste Services market in the Capital Region to the exclusion of Twin Bridges.”
For example, “Waste Connections has given away over ‘200,000 free months of service’ and ‘$2 million in free service’ to customers in the Capital Region Market where Twin Bridges seeks to compete,” Twin Bridges alleges. “The 200,000 free months of service given by Waste Connections is the equivalent of one (1) year of free service for over 16,000 customers.”
“Waste Connections has a leading market position in residential and commercial Waste Services in the counties of Albany, Fulton, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Washington and Warren counties (the ‘Capital Region Market’),” Twin Bridges December 2020 court filing states.
Twin Bridges claims Waste Connections, through its ownership and operation of most of the area’s transfer stations and landfills and which the company denies Twins Bridges access to, “has attempted to monopolize the Capital Region Market to the exclusion of Twin Bridges by controlling through improper means the stream of waste/recycling collection and disposal.”
But Earl is no stranger to cornering the market.
Just before Earl sold County Waste in 2011, it was three to five times the size of its nearest Capital Region competitor — while a few years prior to that, the company had been listed in the top third of all solid waste companies in the entire country, based on revenue.
This article was originally published on altamontenterprise.com.