Easy Reader Staff

Hermosa Beach adopts pay-as-you-throw trash system

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The City Council on Tuesday voted to change the method of trash collection beginning January 1 for all residents, who will see a change in their trash fees depending upon how much refuse they throw out.

The council also voted to award the estimated $17.5 million new trash contract to Athens Services, which means saying goodbye to the current waste hauler, Consolidated Services. Athens will now enter into negotiations with city staff, and a detailed contract is expected to be hammered out and presented to the city council for a final vote September 11.

The council voted 3-2 awarding the contract to Athens, with Council member Howard Fishman and Mayor Jeff Duclos favoring Crown Disposal instead.

More than 20 people spoke at Wednesday’s public hearing. Council members decided to go with a pay-as-you-throw system as opposed to a system in which refuse and recycleables are thrown out together and later separated at a sorting facility.

Under the new “cart” system, residents would be charged by the size of the container they use for refuse. Currently, residents pay a flat $11.57 fee for unlimited trash collection. Beginning next year, residents would have the option of using a 35-gallon cart for $6.92, a 64-gallon cart for $10.92 or a 95-gallon cart for $14.92. Residents could use an unlimited number of recycling carts, and optional green waste carts would cost $3.70 for a 35-gallon cart, $4.20 for a 64-gallon cart and $4.70 for a 95-gallon green waste cart.

Additional refuse carts would cost $4, $6 or $8, depending upon the size of the cart.

Although individual residents can lower their trash fees by using one of the two smaller carts, the overall rate for the city as a whole is expected to increase about 3 percent over seven years, according to projections. Athens would be paid an estimated $2,255,000 for the first year of the trash hauling contract, with a 5 percent annual cap on increases. The Athens contract includes an increase for commercial businesses, from $91.59 a week, as it is currently, to $99.75.

Council members said they considered the service each company would provide, the cost of each proposal and the diversion rate, which is the amount of refuse diverted from the landfill.

Athens proposed diverting at least 35 percent of refuse, which is more than the 26 percent that Consolidated Services currently diverts but less than the 65 percent Crown Disposal proposed.

Council members supporting the pay-as-you-throw system said it has worked fine in Manhattan Beach.

“Pay as you throw encourages waste minimization,” Mayor Jeff Duclos said, adding that HF&H, the consulting firm working with the city during the selection process, favored the pay-as-you-throw system.

“This is a terrific first step to actually have people pay for what they need,” said Council member Mike DiVirgilio.

“That’s part of the incentive of the pay-as-you-throw: If you are generating less trash, then you will pay less money,” Council member Howard Fishman said.

Mayor Pro Tem Kit Bobko was the only council member to oppose the pay-as-you-throw system. He favored the “single stream” system in which refuse and recycleables are throw out together for a flat fee, saying more refuse could ultimately be diverted from the landfill with that method.

“Are we really concerned about recycling or are we really concerned about looking like we are recycling?” Bobko said. “I’m more interested in recycling.”

Bobko favored holding a public hearing on the looming trash fees increases, but his motion failed.

Other Council members said the pay-as-you-throw system encourages recycling.

“It’s a lot easier once you get used to it,” Council member Peter Tucker said. “You’ll see a complete different shift in the community as far as how we throw out our trash. We’ll be more conscious of it.”

Several residents spoke in favor of keeping a fixed residential trash fee, and many also favored the pay-as-you-throw system. Several residents spoke highly of the Consolidated drivers who work in Hermosa, several of whom attended Tuesday’s meeting.

Unlike Consolidated and Crown, Athens’ truck drivers are not part of a union. Athens Chief Operating Officer Gary Clifford offered to hire any Consolidated drivers who wanted to work for Athens, as long as they passed the application process. But a local union representative said Athens took over waste collection from Consolidated in Redondo Beach last year and didn’t end up hiring any of the Consolidated drivers who worked in Redondo.

Consolidated is owned by Republic Services, and the Republic Area President Kurt Bratton told the council that his drivers who work in Hermosa would be reassigned elsewhere.

Council members instructed staff to negotiate with Athens over the course of the next month or so. They wanted perks included in the final contract that include unlimited green waste, an Athens office in the city, cheaper and smaller options than the 35-gallon cart, more days in which residents can put out more waste than what their cart holds, better senior citizen discounts and routine removal of batteries and e-waste.

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