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Recycling Up, Trash Down — Council Hires Consultant

El Cerrito has hired Sacramento-based R3 Consulting Group to help solve the conundrum that the city’s successful, free recycling program is cutting East Bay Sanitary Company’s revenues from paid residential trash collection.

El Cerrito has hired Sacramento-based R3 Consulting Group to help solve the conundrum that the city’s successful, free recycling program is cutting East Bay Sanitary Company’s revenues from paid residential trash collection.

With the city’s curbside recycling system improved in past years, more residential waste has ended up in curbside recycling bins, enabling residents to move to smaller, lower-cost landfill trash containers for their non-recyclables.

The council approved hiring R3 Monday night for $46,000, to be split between the city and East Bay Sanitary (EBS). The study will determine proposed 2012 trash rates in November and recommend a new formula for setting future rates.

The issue arose last December when the city raised its curbside pick-up rates beyond a five-year-old formula negotiated with the trash-hauling company after the staff and company projected that the pattern of switching to smaller, lower-rate waste cans would reduce the firm's collection revenues by $25,000 to $50,000 this year.

“EBS has requested that the City address the migration issue to keep the company solvent,” the Environmental Services staff reported.

A new approach will have to ensure the waste pick-up service remains profitable and still encourage customers to recycle more, which free curbside recycling service now does.

Out of three consulting firms responding to request for proposals in May, the staff recommended R3 based on its pledge that principal owner William Schoen, already familiar with the city’s waste management system, will “hit the ground running” and do 80 percent of the work. R3 also proposed a more precise project approach than competitors, staff said.

michael coan July 19, 2011 at 02:24 PM
The recycling program is not really free. The city has costs which are covered by taxes. Is is necessary to collect recyclables every week? For me, the newspaper, bottles, and cans fill the container every 3 weeks. I see many people roll out the recycling container every week, but is is only partially full. The city could save money by going to a 2-week interval, and use the savings to help pay for trash pick-up.
Nancy Gordon July 19, 2011 at 03:53 PM
I didn't even realize that our East Bay Sanitary charges weren't covering the costs of curbside recycling. In contrast to Michael C, our large recycling bin is full every week, so going to every 2 weeks would mean we'd need to make a trip to the recycling center in between to drop off recycling. I think that most people would pay a fee for curbside recycling. After all, if it doesn't go into the recycling bin, it will go into the trash bin and raise trash pick ups costs. However, maybe neighbors who don't generate much recycling alone could have the option of sharing a recycling bin to cut down on their cost. Same could actually apply to shared trash bins. Doing so could help making trash and recyclables pick up more affordable for those living on a fixed income and reduce costs for people who live alone and don't generate as much trash or recycling. However, I realize that will just increase the cash flow problem for collection if too many households start to share..
Evelyn Ruth Cecil Ortman July 19, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Our family of five normally fills our recycle bin each week (sometimes overflowing), our garbage bin (medium size) most weeks. Not sure what the answer is, but I just wanted to say that each household is very different so there isn't a cookie cutter answer. I feel the garbage rates are on the high side already, I have split the bill up and pay it monthly, higher rates would make it very difficult for my family.
Local Mom July 19, 2011 at 05:26 PM
My family agrees that the garbage rates are high enough already, especially after the recent increase. We could live with less frequent pickups if it meant lower rates.
wannablamorinda July 19, 2011 at 11:23 PM
We would not pay any more than we are already, particularly as a 'sin tax' of recycling. We could, however, forego trash services altogether, and just ask the city for recycling/green bin pickup only. Our tiny trash bin could be picked up biweekly or monthly, but the recycling bin is always filled to the brim. Even with compost and yard waste, green bin could go to 2 weeks again, or just be smaller. I know a number of communities are struggling with this - sign of the times, not as much money in the trash biz.
Dorothy Coakley July 19, 2011 at 11:41 PM
Each week we use the tiniest (portable) garbage can (which is usually almost empty), two greenwaste cans and a full recycling can. Frankly, we could easily live without the garbage can...but (as you know) this is not an option. I appreciate the weekly pickup of recycling and find that our "green" efforts increased enormously when we ceased to have to differentiate between cans, bottles and paper. Were we to return to the former schedule (alternate weeks) I'm afraid that more trash would hit the garbage can rather than to be cleaned and recycled.


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