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."