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"Trash Talk" at Rotary — Why Your Garbage Rates Jumped

Mark Figone, president of the company that picks up El Cerrito's garbage and green waste, East Bay Sanitary, told the Rotary Club Thursday why residents are seeing a significant hike in rates.

Ironically, the city's success in reducing garbage and promoting recycling is a chief reason for the significant hike in garbage rates for El Cerrito residents, the head of the garbage-collection company, , told the Thursday.

Mark Figone, president of East Bay Sanitary, said the decrease in landfill garbage caused by the city's recycling program meant that a large number of households have switched to smaller garbage cans, for which they pay a lower rate, which in turn reduces the company's income.

But the company's expenses are not reduced by a commensurate amount because the firm still has to operate the same number of trucks and weekly routes, he said. So East Bay Sanitary had to raise rates to cover the cost, he told the two dozen guests at the Rotary weekly luncheon at the .

In December, the El Cerrito City Council, which contracts with East Bay Sanitary, of 12 percent for most residents. The newly approved rate for a typical household, which uses a 35-gallon garbage cart, increased by $4.06 to $38.10 per month.

Figone said the rate hike prompted "a substantial amount of phone calls."

East Bay Sanitary picks up garbage and green waste, while the city picks up recycling, but the fees for all three are included in the East Bay Sanitary bill through a contract with the city.

"People are obviously more and more concerned about recycling," Figone said. "We've had a huge migration (from larger garbage carts to smaller) in the past 18 months."

A staff report to the City Council in December noted a decrease in the size of garbage cans used by residents: "From 2005 to 2010, the number of 64 gallon subscribers decreased by 28%, the number of 35 gallon subscribers decreased 6 percent, and the number of 20 gallon subscribers increased by 33 percent."

Other contributing reasons for the rate hikes include the switch to weekly pick-up for green waste, which began this month after the former biweekly schedule, and the regular annual cost-of-living increase, Figone said.

He said the company plans to further reduce costs by reducing the rate differential between larger and smaller cans, possibly by the beginning of next year.

"Hopefully we're able to roll out the new rate in El Cerrito by Jan. 1 next year," he said.

Perhaps anticipating questions over whether reducing the cost incentive to use smaller garbage cans would impact recycling, he added that East Bay Sanitary "still wants to encourage recycling."

grumpster February 18, 2011 at 11:02 PM
Somehow every other city in our area (which all have curbside recycling just like El Cerrito) have managed to keep their trash rates FAR below El Cerrito's. Here are the numbers for a 35 gallon can: El Cerrito $38.10 Richmond $28.46 Albany $24.77 Berkeley $27.56 What is different in El Cerrito? One thing is that our trash rates include very large fees to cover the cost of building the new recycling Taj Majal; another is that our fine, honest, and well-managed city has elected to repeatedly renew its contract with a small, inefficient trash company, instead of seeking competitive bids from others that could do the job at a lower cost.
Renate Valencia February 19, 2011 at 01:57 AM
Seems like a sad state of affairs when residents are penalized for being better about recycling. These rates are too high now, and have been too high for quite some time. When I moved from Albany to El Cerrito a few years ago, I could not believe how much more we had to pay. Too bad there isn't some competition. When I lived in rural PA, companies had to compete for your trash business. Personally, I do not need weekly green pickups, but I guess there must be many people who do, since this change would not have happened without real need, right?
Charles Burress (Editor) February 19, 2011 at 04:42 AM
Grumpster's points are worth exploring. It would be good to know how similar the services are -- to make sure we're not comparing apples to oranges. Also, is there any law requiring competitive bidding on city contracts?
wannablamorinda February 19, 2011 at 08:57 AM
When word spread of EC gov's desire to raise sales taxes to >10%, it raised our awareness to something; local taxes were already far higher than surrounding areas, and little El Cerrito would be more expensive than LA or SF counties?! Result? Even before the propaganda'd community voted it in in November, we'd limited purchases to untaxed takeaway food & groceries in EC. Sorry EC merchants. Get thee through the tunnels to the land of 9.25%. We're right behind you. Imagine our delight when shortly after this "victory," the emboldened EC gov in a pre-Christmas session, quietly votes in even more increases to our household budget to take effect nearly immediately in the new year.  Garbage rates...and of course they're again higher than neighboring cities. Result? We ordered a food waste pail for green bin composting, and dropped to the smallest trash bin (20 gallon). To our surprise we barely fill it, pay slightly less than before for weekly waste collection, and smile, stupefied, when taking out the little landfill garbage we have.  We are trying to view this as a happy result well-meaning Recycling division staff are looking for.  So go ahead and keep lowering your environmental footprint - demand a 10 gallon bin even - but watch the EC gov overreach and the ever rising prices for a standard of living not even close to that of the outer East Bay let alone most of the US.
grumpster February 19, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Seems like an apples to apples comparison to me. All of the rates include collecting trash, recycling, and green waste once a week, and they all include applicable local and county fees. "Is there any law requiring competitive bidding on city contracts?" Does it matter? Competitive, arms-length contracting is what smart and responsible cities do to ensure that their citizens are getting the best service at the least cost. It is just common sense, and El Cerrito should be doing it whether or not it is required by law.
Renate Valencia February 19, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Residents need to hold the city accountable. When they proposed the previous significant rate hike, they asked for letters. I wrote one, and there were only 4 others! When I made my calls that go-round, and asked why things were so much more expensive here than Albany, and the services, at that time, much less comprehensive to boot, I was told, more or less, that the recycling in El Cerrito is better....more true to what recycling should be. I can deal with paying a little more for higher values, but this much more? There has to be more to the story.
George March 01, 2012 at 02:06 AM
> was told "recycling in El Cerrito is better....more true to what recycling should be." This doesn't make any sense to me. So Berkeley and SF are priding themselves on what is actually inferior recycling. Only EC knows how to 'truely' do recycling? So an idea -- EC should run classes to teach Berkeley and SF what they are missing; and use the revenue to lower our costs.

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