by Dave Chandler
There is an effort here in Arvada for a city government mandated trash collection service. Under this proposal the hauling away of your residential garbage would be done through a city council awarded contract to a single company city-wide or to a single hauler for subdivided districts.
The biggest arguments in favor of this scheme seem to be that a single hauler will increase the participation of Arvadans in recycling; and that one truck a week will cause less air pollution, less noise, and presumably be less destructive of our streets. (Though I now often have more package delivery vans traversing my street everyday than garbage trucks during the whole week.)
There are, however, common sense reasons why the single hauler plan is not a good idea ... at least at this time.
First, of course, is that it takes away consumer choice — the government will decide who picks up your garbage and you will have to pay whatever the selected company decides you will pay.
Second, while there is general consensus that recycling is economically efficient and is good for the environment, there are a couple of problems with the notion that ought to be considered. Recycling would not be mandatory, therefore, under this government program you will be paying to subsidize a recycling service even if you do not participate (for instance, you may choose to handle recycling yourself; see SustainAbility). Taken away will be your freedom to choose a lower payment to a company that doesn’t offer recycling.
Furthermore, there are currently serious nationwide discussions about the efficaciousness of recycling, especially of plastics in light of China’s decision to no longer accept American materials. It would be difficult if not impossible for Arvada government to contractually dictate to a trash collection company that all recyclable materials must be recycled. There will be no way to guarantee to Arvadans that their plastic waste (or any other recyclable waste) will not end up in a landfill anyway.
Third, only corporate out-of-state-owned haulers are likely to have the resources to compete for a single city-wide contract or even for two or three intra-city area contracts. Instead of supporting local trash hauling businesses -- and their profits remaining in Colorado -- Arvadans will be forced to pay fees to a mega-waste corporation.
Consolidation of the trash hauling industry will be furthered by awarding a single hauler contract to a large corporation, ultimately leading to less accountability to customers and, yes, eventually higher prices (that is what monopolies do).
Fourth, a multi-year contract with a single hauler will preclude innovations in trash collection. At this point perhaps it would be more effective for Arvada government to engage with other metro communities to explore the concept of waste-to-energy electrical power plants. Or perhaps engage in discussions with Denver to participate in an expansion of their Denver Composts program. Or, Arvada government could consider incentives to trash collection businesses already operating in the city to use quieter, more fuel efficient or alternative fuels trucks.
Finally, the political component of how this single hauler plan should cause concern. Can we trust the Arvada city council — as it is currently constituted — to consider the best interests of the citizens as a whole when awarding such a large contract?
- This council notoriously does not listen to residents or engage with us on serious issues
- This council has not shown a commitment to competition and free enterprise, eg., the $30 Land Deal, Arvada Urban Renewal Authority tax subsidies to Walmart, Hilton, Solana, Park Place Olde Town, etc.
- This council has not prioritized important city issues, for example street maintenance is still woefully behind where it ought to be; it still spends millions and millions of taxpayer dollars on the environmentally problematic Jefferson Parkway toll road boondoggle; it approves residential development ahead of infrastructure; etc.
As they say, “the devil is in the details” and with such a consequential decision -- that will affect every single resident of Arvada -- these details must be fully debated. Drafting a contract for a single hauler would be fraught with peril and require a diligence that this council has not shown itself to be adept with, for example:
- protections for customers in the event of a spike in fuel prices
- reliability, safety, customer service — guaranteed accountability
- regular and thorough city council oversight, not just an annual review
- liability for accidents, property damage, street damage
- how and when snow delays are to be called
- protections for trash collector employees working on Arvada contract(s); right of employees to organize protected
- standardized rates for and guaranteed pick-up of special items
- full transparency of the recycling chain from pick-up to final processing
- complete transparency of contractor's operation -- to know we are getting what we are paying for: customers/taxpayers/City Hall access to the hauler’s route optimization plan, hauler mileage logging, landfill tonnage recording, landfill diversion rates, recycling contamination rates, vehicle tracking, and route history
A few articles I have found informative:
Monopoly and the U.S. Waste Knot - Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Seattle makes history with electric garbage truck - ArsTechnica; May 22, 2019
Malaysia to send back plastic waste to Western countries - NBC News; May 28, 2019
America has a recycling problem. Here's how to solve it. - The Week; February 11, 2019
Why America’s recycling industry is in the dumps - CBS News; October 10, 2018
Volvo unveils new all-electric garbage truck with up to 200 km of range - electric; May 9, 2018