L.A. Overhauls Trash Pick-Up at Apartments, Businesses

By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou City News Service

The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday approved a transformation in the way trash is picked up from businesses, apartments and condominiums, backing a franchise system aimed at bolstering recycling and slashing the number of trucks on city streets.

The revised system divides the city into 11 zones and limits the number of trash hauling companies permitted to operate within the city.

Because the vote was not unanimous — with Councilman Bernard Parks the lone dissenter in a 12-1 tally — the issue will return to the council April 8 for a final vote.

Backers of the program, slated to start in 2017, say it will increase recycling and help the city meet a goal of diverting 90 percent of trash away from landfills by 2025. They also contend it will result in fewer truck trips and improve worker safety.

Opponents, however, argued the system will put smaller companies out of business and potentially drive up the cost of trash collection.

The implementation of the franchise program could affect as many as 45 private waste-hauling companies serving about 63,000 customers in Los Angeles, officials said.

Pending the council’s final approval, the new process will allow just one hauler to serve commercial and multi-unit residential properties in each of the city’s 11 zones.

Companies will be required to bid for the opportunity to operate within the city, and they must also adhere to environmental and worker safety regulations imposed by the city.

The city’s Bureau of Sanitation currently handles trash collection from single-family homes, but commercial and multi-unit residential property owners can hire any private waste hauling company they choose.

The council first directed staff to develop and study the exclusive franchise system in 2012. City Councilman Jose Huizar said “we’ve surely come a long way” since he and Councilman Paul Koretz proposed the idea in 2010.
The new system requires haulers to provide three bins — a blue one for recyclable items, a green bin for organic waste and a black container for solid waste. “I’m glad we’ll have a world-class recycling rate and an organic recycling program,” Koretz said.

The city’s requirements for haulers also include paying workers wages that meet requirements of the city’s living wage ordinance and using trucks that run on clean fuels with lower emissions.

Councilwoman Nury Martinez said her east San Fernando Valley district is “home to most of the city’s waste haulers” and bears the brunt of the “inundation of truck traffic” that results in poor air quality and places a “huge strain” on infrastructure.

“I want a process in which trash haulers are … going to be held accountable,” she said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said he supported the franchise system proposal while he was on the council and hailed the process approved Tuesday as “one of the most ambitious programs of its kind in the world.”

He said the system “will provide clean air, good jobs and recycling for all.”
“Los Angeles is already a national leader in recycling for single family homes, and the Zero Waste L.A. program will raise the bar even higher,” he said. “By bringing recycling to commercial and multi-family buildings, we will keep millions of tons of waste out of our landfills and put L.A. on the path to a 90 percent recycling rate by 2025.”

Jackie Cornejo, director of nonprofit LAANE’s “Don’t Waste L.A.” campaign that has been pushing for the change, said “city leaders and the Bureau of Sanitation have taken the first step to create a new recycling-based economy with career opportunities for all Angelenos.”

The group worked with the environmental groups like the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Pacoima Beautiful, as well as labor groups such as the Teamsters.

Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the labor community is “celebrating history in the making today with City Council’s near unanimous vote to approve the Zero Waste LA franchise system.”

“These hardworking men and women provide a vital service to our residents and businesses, and deserve safe jobs with fair compensation — higher standards that our new system will be putting into place,” she said.

Members of the business community, however, said their needs were being ignored.

L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben said the city “has yet to convince the business community that an exclusive franchise system would do anything other than create a costly bureaucracy, raise trash collection rates as much as 40 percent, potentially shut down 140 small family owned businesses and eliminate thousands of high paying jobs.”

“The residents and businesses of Los Angeles were losers today because of a desire by a single union that wants to represent all of the waste haul businesses in Los Angeles,” Toebben said.

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April 3, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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