Garbage changes may be coming

Public Works passes along some citizen recommendations


St. Paul’s contract for organized garbage collection, serving 1-4 unit dwellings, expires Oct. 1. That may be months away. But in the scheme of city process, it is coming up fast.
The St. Paul City Council in February accepted a report from Public Works staff that included some but not all recommendations from a citizens advisory task force.
A request for proposal for a new service provider is being prepared, said Susan Young, manager of resident and employee services.
Not everyone agrees with what Public Works has brought forward, especially as it affects multi-family buildings. A growing number of small landlords want the same rights that single-family homeowners could have under a changed contract. Ideas up for debate include the extent of opt-outs, and allowing multi-family properties to have fewer trash carts or even small dumpsters.
The changes eyed include having the city itself take on a small amount of garbage and recycling collection. A district council consortium and later the nonprofit Eureka Recycling have handled residential recycling. Years ago, Hamline-Midway was one of the first neighborhoods to have curbside residential recycling, with residents issued yellow, blue and white bins for paper, cans and glass.
Trash for decades was handled by haulers hired by property owners, with the St. Paul Haulers LLC group taking over under a city contract in 2018. That consortium has asked if it can renegotiate the current contract.
The hauler consortium was launched when the city had 15 haulers providing residential trash service, as a means of protecting market share for smaller companies. Now there are five, with Waste Management having more than 50 percent of the residential accounts. The others are Republic, Aspen, Gene’s and Highland Sanitation.
The hauler consortium could submit a bid, as can other haulers or hauler groups, said Young. One issue the city must consider is how much capacity bidders have and if they can successfully do the work.
Young cited the tight timeline to get a new contract and request for proposals ready, and the need to rectify past problems.
Customer service is a huge issue. Young noted that in some cases, people have waited on the phone for hours to get a response from a hauler. It’s recommended that both garbage and recycling customer service get more city oversight.
It’s also recommended that the city take over cart management for trash and recycling, and that the city handle trash billing. Public Works is recommending that adjacent property owners or residents in multi-unit buildings be allowed to share carts (which isn’t currently allowed), with conditions tied to the amount of waste generated.
Single-family dwellings may be allowed to opt out of garbage service, if the residents could demonstrate that they are generating little to no waste. That was requested by several Midway residents, under the original contract.
Another change is organics pickup. Ramsey County is developing a program to encourage residents to put food scraps in compostible bags and put bags in their trash. The organics bags would be pulled out of the waste stream at the Ramsey-Washington trash facility in Newport. The current compost drop-off program with neighborhood and yard waste sites would continue.
Yard waste pickup would remain an optional service for residents under a new contract.
What may generate debate is how bulky items are handled. Currently each household can dispose of two to three bulky items per year without an extra charge. That was seen as a way to reduce illegal dumping of items. But illegal dumping has increased, not decreased. For years residents would sometimes save bigger items or quantities (ssuch as construction waste) for neighborhood cleanups. In the past every district council held at least one cleanup event a year. That was changed over time and now there are just two drop off days a year. The effectiveness of that has been questioned.
The recommendation is for bulky items to be included in the base rate for trash collection and to allow up to six items per year.


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