Peoria Disposal Co. sold to Canadian company Green For Life Environmental

Local and family owned for nearly 93 years, Peoria Disposal Co. saw the end of an era on October 1.

PDC was sold to a Canadian company named Green for Life Environmental Inc.

“I think for our whole family it’s very bittersweet,” said Matt Coulter, in an interview at PDC’s head office in Peoria on the day of the sale. “I had my moment last night. It’s like going to a funeral – until the moment you see the person you’re very close to, it doesn’t really hit you. But the process of selling the business, we all made the decision. It was a joint decision of our whole family.

Most of the Coulter family, which has grown the business over five generations, will now pursue other interests, although former PDC vice president Matt Coulter will continue to work for GFL as vice president. regional. His father Royal Coulter, president of PDC since the late 1970s, will continue in a consulting role.

Factors that led the family to choose to sell

The Coulter family quietly began looking for a new owner for PDC in the fall of 2020, after making a carefully considered decision brought about by many factors, Coulter said. The waste trade has become more and more complicated and expensive over the years.

“All of these discharges are long term liabilities that the family has had to deal with,” he said. “You talk about insurance and cost control. This is something that never goes away because with today’s landfills, the post-closure period is over 30 years. ”

It was a responsibility that would have been passed on to the next generation. Another problem was the evolution of the workforce. Once a lifelong career, being a garbage collector is something modern employees do for a short time, Coulter said

“Over the years we’ve probably had over 50 employees who have worked for the company for over 40 years,” Coulter said. “It doesn’t happen anymore. You could have a truck driver come on board, they’re here six months, maybe 18 months, and they’re gone.

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Soaring equipment costs were also included in the decision.

“Fifteen or twenty years ago you could buy a rear-load garbage truck for $ 150,000. Today they are $ 300,000, ”Coulter said. “A 3% increase on a municipal contract does not compensate for the increases our industry has experienced. ”

More and more family-owned waste management companies in the United States are pulling out of the garbage business, said Coulter, who predicts a future where the industry will be led by big companies.

Elmer Coulter drives a Peoria Disposal Company truck in this undated photo.  Elmer was one of three sons who took over the business from their father, John Coulter, who founded the business in 1928.

“My prediction is that it will slowly move towards an industry regulated as a utility,” he said. “In the longer term, there will be 15 to 20 national players, and you will see more regulation of tariffs and regulation of practices. “

GFL is a growing company

PDC is one of 31 acquisitions that GFL made in the United States this year. Based in Vaughan, Ontario, GFL is the fourth largest diversified environmental services company in North America. The company provides non-hazardous solid waste management, infrastructure and soil remediation, and liquid waste management services at facilities across Canada and in 27 states in the United States.

Although GFL has not disclosed what they paid for PDC, industry insiders estimate it to be around $ 500 million, according to WasteDive.com.

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GFL founder and CEO Patrick Dovigi praised PDC in a press release released on the day of the sale.

“The acquisition of PDC provides us with a unique opportunity to acquire one of the best sets of vertically integrated family owned and operated assets in the United States, while expanding our solid waste footprint in the US Midwest. PDC occupies a leading position in a secondary market with some of the highest operating margins in our industry, ”said Dovigi.

From a truck to a 350-vehicle empire based in Peoria

PDC has provided recycling, commercial and industrial waste transportation, and residential services in central Illinois and eastern Missouri. The company had three active landfills, two transfer stations, a material recovery facility and a wastewater treatment plant. The acquisition also included Peoria City / County Landfill Number 3, which is expected to begin operations in early 2024. The company also had a fleet of more than 350 vehicles and employed more than 400 people.

It’s a far cry from the business that West Peoria resident John Coulter started in 1928 with just one truck. John was Matt Coulter’s great-grandfather.

“It was the Great Depression, so that’s what he did to make a living for his family. I don’t remember the size of the family. I think it was three boys and three girls, ”said Matt Coulter. “He ended up getting sick in the early ’40s, and their mom said,’ Hey, you gotta help, ‘and that’s when the boys took over.”

Reuben, Melvin and Elmer, Matt’s grandfather, renamed the company Peoria Disposal Co., and in the 1950s the company bought its first modern garbage truck with a loan of $ 5,000. Soon after, they bought land in West Peoria for PDC’s first office and lots for the trucks. During this period, the company has grown to 25 employees serving 15,000 homes and 3,000 business customers.

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During the 1960s, PDC landed major customers such as Caterpillar and the City of Peoria, and obtained a permit for its first solid landfill, which was in Pottstown. In the 1970s, shortly after seeing PDC celebrate its 50th birthday, Elmer Coulter passed away. His son, Royal Coulter, became the president of the company.

Royal is an extraordinary leader who has brought the company through many years of growth, his son said. PDC has acquired numerous disposal companies in Illinois and Missouri, as well as other landfills. PDC has also entered the recycling business and opened the PDC laboratories, so that they can perform their own tests in landfills. The lab is the only asset that PDC has not sold.

In 2018, when the company celebrated its 90th anniversary, it was named one of the top 25 environmental services companies in the United States.

One of the biggest changes PDC customers will notice since the company was sold to GFL is the color of the garbage trucks that collect the garbage.  The familiar brown and orange logos will soon be covered in a distinctive shade of spring green.

With the change in ownership, customers will likely start to notice something different about the garbage trucks and containers they pick up.

“They’re going to start painting trucks and putting their logos on containers,” said Matt Coulter.

Branding is something GFL founder Patrick Dovigi takes very seriously. When he started his business in Toronto, he worked with a paint company to develop a distinctive paint color for the company. It’s a brilliant spring green that has been patented, said Eric Shangraw, marketing director at PDC.

“It’s their thing, Green for Life. He’s a marketing guru.

Leslie Renken can be reached at (309) 370-5087 or [email protected] Follow her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.


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