Republic Services to Surcharge All San Angelo Residents for Not Recycling Enough
For months, starting in July 2015, when Republic Services began fulfilling its part of the contract established with the City of San Angelo, citizens have had many complaints about the change to curbside pickup, no pickups, late pickups, missing bins, and of course, the increased rate for trash services. Beginning in February, the residential trash pickup rate will increase another 50 cents because the city is failing to meet its 500-ton per month recycling goal.
This increase was announced Tuesday to City Council during its Regular Agenda Meeting at the McNease Convention Center in a presentation and discussion related to trash collection, recycling and landfill services by Jeremy Miller, Solid Waste Contract Manager.
“Currently, we are averaging 350 tons a month of gross recycling material at Butts Recycling Center,” Miller told the council. “As of February 1st, 50 cents will be added to citizens’ trash bills.”
Miller also said this is a fee that will be continually reevaluated on Oct. 1 of each year.
The 50 cent price hike is in addition to an automatic 2.9 percent annual rate increase in the contract signed by Republic and the city in July 2014.
Miller confirmed that this recycling penalty would be enacted six months after recycling was implemented by Republic and evaluated every Oct. 1 of the 10-year agreement. That six-month period is up, and come Oct. 1, 2016, eight months after the first increase, the 50-cent penalty can be eliminated if San Angelo can reach the monthly 500-tons of residential recyclables target goal.
Ever the optimist, Miller said with more education and campaigns at local schools to encourage children to recycle and talk to their parents about recycling, San Angelo can reach the goal.
Bob Gregory, CEO of Texas Disposal Systems predicted that San Angelo will never reach the monthly goal of 500 tons of recyclables, especially since the list of approved recycling items excludes glass. His company collects recycling in Austin, and even in the bluest of all cities in Texas, he said the rate of recycling required to reach the 500-ton/mo. goal is hard to achieve.
"This was their plan all along," Gregory said last night. "The 50 cents was a hidden surcharge to make the bid lower," he said. "Now, we're getting to the very nature of the business model of Republic. They don’t really want to recycle," Gregory said. His company, TDS, was the only other bid for the trash contract. His bid was rejected after a weekend review of the two proposals, and Gregory believes his company's proposal was ignored.
Gregory, a native of San Angelo now living in the Austin area, operates Texas Disposal Systems. He also owns the San Angelo company Acme Metal, a scrap yard. TDS has the contract to collect trash and recyclables at Angelo State University and several communities in the region.
"We're still here, and we're not going anywhere," Gregory said. Gregory is involved in two lawsuits with Republic. Republic sued Gregory's TDS over his company providing construction trash pickup, or temporary roll-off trash bin collection, within the city limits. Republic argues that the city contract gives Republic exclusivity; TDS argues that state law trumps the city contract and resulting ordinance, and his company is free to compete.
The other lawsuit is Acme Metal and Mayfield Paper versus Republic over what Gregory calls Republic's illegal overcharging of commercial trash customers in San Angelo over a 14-year period.
Gregory said that the recycling market has been hit with a global recession.
"It's very, very difficult to make money selling recycled bulk materials right now," he said. He cited the downward direction of the bulk corrugated cardboard market with China as an example. "With the strength of the U.S. dollar, all exports to China have taken a hit," he said.
In light of the recyclables recession, Gregory said that for the first time ever, Butts Recycling has began charging TDS for dropping off recyclables at its facility. TDS is paying $35 per ton. The charge, while not that significant for the 650-employee TDS, has Gregory evaluating the idea of building a transfer station for just recyclables in San Angelo. The TDS business model is to sell compost at a chain of TDS-owned lawn care stores called Garden-Ville throughout the Austin area. Gregory said his floor for making money with recyclables is much lower than his competitors who do not have the same retail option.
This morning, Jeremy Miller confirmed that the idea of reducing the pickup schedule for recyclables to once every other week has been floated. Gregory predicted this would happen two years ago. He said the standard for recyclable pickup in just about every other city he has awareness occurs on a bi-weekly basis. Gregory's bid for residential pickup, a fixed rate around $18 per month, was hammered in the last mayoral election by Mayor Dwain Morrison, who won re-election in part by defending the Republic trash contract. But if you compared the other proposed rate from TDS, the one for every other week recyclable pickup, with the Republic bid, the numbers were very competitive. TDS did not propose a compounded annual rate hike of 2.9 percent like Republic negotiated into the final contract.
Miller said that his objective is to allocate the resources to meet the needs of the community. For example, he said they are focusing on the bulk pickup, with the possibility of adding a recyclables pickup component to it.
He to reminded citizens of the quarterly bulk pickup at yesterday's meeting.
“Once a quarter, we will come pick up items that don’t fit in the cart,” Miller said. “Those items must be placed in the same service location as the trash bins.”
That bulk pickup is also limited to 5 cubic yards, and should be placed out on the curb by 7 a.m. on Monday during the week of the scheduled collection. Miller said residents can visit cosatx.us/solidwaste to locate the bulk collection schedule map.
Also, he reminded people what they can include in that bulk pickup:
- Barbecue grills without a propane tank
- Bagged yard waste
- White goods & appliances (if refrigerant is removed by a licensed professional and tagged as such)
- Mattresses & Furniture
- Brush/limbs (4 feet in length and bound)
Things people cannot include in bulk pickup include:
- Household trash
- Construction materials
- Hazardous materials
- Roofing materials
- Automobile engine parts
- Soil & rocks
With these items clarified, Miller said many residents are still throwing the wrong items in the wrong bins, especially when it comes to recycling items.
“Currently, at the recycling center, we are experiencing higher than expected contamination rates,” Miller told the council. “I think the standard is 15 to 20 percent on contamination. That would be someone making a mistake and putting the wrong item in there. Currently, since the 6 months we’ve been doing this, we’ve been averaging 30 to 40 percent in contamination, so it’s double what it should be."
Yard waste, sanitary napkins, medical waste and diapers are a major part of this contamination problem. Miller stated this is an education issue Republic and the city will have to work through.
“It’s kind of bogging things down at the recycling center,” he said. Miller also noted that all recyclables should be loose.
As a reminder, Miller pointed out that the following are the items accepted for recycling:
- Paper—shredded (bagged in clear plastic bags) along with newspapers and inserts, mail, magazines, catalogs, phone books and assorted, mixed paper.
- Plastic—jugs, bottles, tubs and cups
- Cardboard—cereal boxes, paper or frozen food boxes and corrugated cardboard.
- Cans—aluminum cans, clean food cans and aerosol cans.
Miller said if citizens are unsure if an item is recyclable, it’s best to throw it in the regular trash bin.
Miller added that the city has been dealing now with these changes for six months, and things have been normalizing despite the issues.
“Of course, there’s always room for improvement,” he stated.
Miller said Republic drivers deal with over 10,000 pickups a day, and their goal is to be in the single-digit missed pickups. They’re getting close to that.
“When you’re doing that many pickups and there is human error involved, sometimes there is going to be missed pickups," he said.
However, if that happens, Miller said citizens can call Republic and representatives will get something scheduled.
Also, if bins get stolen, he reiterated the need to file a police report so bins can be replaced at no charge.
There is also a disability collection available to get bins moved to the street at no fee should residents need that service.
In essence, the reason Miller wanted to address these items is to adhere to an educational approach in dealing with the complaints received.
“I know there’s issues out there,” he said. To help with those issues, Miller provided the following information so citizens know where to go.
For people who miss a collection; who have questions about collection services; have spilled trash as a result of collection; have a damaged or stolen cart; or, have property/personal damages incurred as a result of collection, contact Republic at (325) 481-7700.
When citizens have unresolved complaints or issues with Republic; want to request additional trash/recycle carts; have billing questions/issues; need information regarding collection for disabled persons; or have compliance issues/complaints with the solid waste city ordinance, they want to call the City Solid Waste Department at (325)486-3798.
With this information, it is Miller’s hope, along with David Harwell, operations manager for Republic, that people will help continue to improve trash services in San Angelo.
Joe Hyde contributed to this report.
Update 4:01 p.m.
Today, Republic Services wanted to clarify to the citizens of San Angelo that the 50-cent increase that goes into effect on Feb. 1 does not go to Republic, but rather is passed through to Butts Recycling. The total amount comes to about $15,000 per month, and an official stated all funds go to the Recycling center because the business is family-owned. Republic simply wants the recycling center to be successful. Overall, recycling is a privilege, and Republic wants that privilege to continue in San Angelo.
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