Trash is big business here in Los Angeles and it’s never without controversy. The latest installment in the L.A. trash wars starts this week; the Board of Public Works is holding public hearings on a proposal from the Bureau of Sanitation that would give exclusive contracts to commercial waste hauling companies, and in exchange, the companies would agree to higher standards on recycling. One private waste hauler would serve each of the 11 geographic regions.
The proposal would affect any apartment building that houses more than four families, as well as most businesses. The goal, according to the city, is to get trash haulers to recycle more and help the city achieve “zero waste.” The L.A. Daily News reports that the Board unanimously backed the new waste system.
If Los Angeles also made the move, it would join the ranks of all 34 cities in Orange County, as well as five of the largest cities in the state, said Greg Good, campaign director of Don't Waste L.A. He said an exclusive system provides more accountability to ensure the highest amount of recycling and create fairness.
“On its face, a nonexclusive system sets up a scenario in which the city never knows who, where, when, how trash is being picked up,” Good said. “All you can do is a blunt instrument, like requiring a blue bin. You never know who is driving what trucks. You essentially don’t have the levers of accountability that exists in an exclusive system.”
Environmental groups love the plan. They say it will increase recycling and reduce the number of trucks belching smoke into the already polluted city skies. Labor groups are also applauding the effort. Right now there are dozens of trash hauling companies, small and large, vying for business all over the cities. But if just a couple of the big guys get all the city’s business it’ll be much easier to organize those workers and increase safety standards industry wide.
The business community however is not supporting this move. They say giving exclusive contracts to a couple of companies will force small haulers out of business, and the economic impact report on the new trash plan they released yesterday was not positive. Business groups also say that a city mandated trash hauler cuts down on competition and will increase prices.
“Comparative shopping is the hallmark of what has kept waste hauling rates in Los Angeles so low,” Sean Rossell, Spokesperson of Angelenos for a Clean Environment, said. According to Rossell, opponents of the new plan support zero waste and more ambitious standards, and those can be achieved through a nonexclusive system.
“The city already has a lot of the standards and policies in place right now to oversee the safety. They already have a number of positions that allow them to monitor and check waste facilities,” he said. “They already have the capabilities to go to these sites and make sure that these things are being done right. And they will be able to expand that under a nonexclusive franchise.”
So is this new plan good for the city? Will it cut down on pollution and force companies to recycle more? Or cut down on competition and force companies out of business?
Greg Good, Campaign Director, Don't Waste L.A. – a coalition spearheaded by the labor-affiliated Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy
Sean Rossell, Spokesperson, Angelenos for a Clean Environment – comprised of business groups and the Los Angeles County Disposal Association