Thoughts on Municipal vs. Private Trash Collecting

Every once in a while, i get in a debate with someone regarding whether municipal or private trash hauling is a better option for a city’s residents. The video below breaks down my position on this never ending debate:

To be clear, the municipal proposal doesn’t necessarily mean that the trash collectors are city employees. More likely, they would be government contractors from one or more companies with non-overlapping route contracts.

PS: The goals checkboxes on the upper-left part of the white board are Carly’s. She just finished her 6-month goal of running a 20-miler a month for 6 months.

10 thoughts on “Thoughts on Municipal vs. Private Trash Collecting”

  1. I watch the same company trash trucks drive up and down the streets every trash day. I often wonder if it’s the same truck or one of multiple trucks driving the same route. There are currently more than 6 haulers in my neighborhood, and another one is trying to join in the melee.

    This amount of traffic is very disruptive, adds to the wear and tear on the roads, and most of these trucks have hydraulic leaks that eventually end up in the storm drains next time it rains. Some will start their routes earlier than is allowed by local codes – but the city refuses to enforce this. Some of the haulers will send people door-to-door trying to sell their services – and they refuse to honor the “No Soliciting” signs and the city refuses to enforce that code as well.

    It seems that the best cost for this service is to be done by contract en mass. If the hauler wants to do it, they have to agree to price controls and equipment maintenance (leaking hydraulics are not allowed). The other benefit is that if it’s done on an annual basis then the haulers will always be in competition to get the next year contract.

    We win by paying a fixed price and having a reliable service. The city wins by having less heavy trucks destroying the roads, and the environment wins by having less diesel exhaust being emitted and less hydraulic fluid running into the storm drains.

  2. When I moved to St. Paul from Minneapolis 17 years ago I was shocked that we had to contract for our own trash hauling. With recent coverage of it, I’ve been starting to agitate gently to get a city-contracted system set up. It’s not like we even pay less with the system we have, plus we pay more or wear and tear, as you illustrated so well.

    I called my council member who is relatively supportive, but I didn’t get the sense he’d sponsor a new system.

    Alley plowing is another story — my alley/block does that together because we pay upfront for it and others reimburse us for their share, but if any household doesn’t pay, what recourse do we have? There’s a reason taxes were invented. Sometimes you need a stick to collect revenues for services.

  3. Ed:

    I agree! Also, I have another reason why Municipal is better. I live on a street in Minneapolis that doesn’t have an alley so I have to push my garbage bin out to the end of my drive. I wouldn’t remember to do this unless I follow my neighbors’ lead.

    Unfortunately, some of my neighbors are confused as to which weeks are recycling weeks.


  4. I couldn’t agree more. This was a big change when we moved from Minneapolis more than three years ago.

    A couple of other points. My private trash collector charges extra for lawn and leaf bag collection, and this year it is up to $3/bag! The same is true if we want something hauled away that doesn’t ordinarily go into a trash bag or bin. When we lived in Minneapolis, they took EVERYTHING we put out there (an old AC unit, carpet), and we paid one reasonable garbage, water and sewer bill.

    So yes, I agree. And you can add this to my other gripes about St. Paul: 1) some of the streets in my neighborhood do not have curbs or sidewalks; 2) there is a serious lack of street lights on some of the streets in our area; 3) some of the alleys are not paved (and I’m guessing that would be a private/block expense to do; 4) alley snow removal is also private, and not everyone on our block agrees to pay; and, 5) I don’t like the snow emergency parking system.

    That said, I still love living in St. Paul, especially our neighborhood.

  5. First, I really really want a whiteboard now. It would be so cool behind the bar. You could even do guest presentations.

    And I really agree with you. In my St Paul neighborhood we do not have alleys. This means, in addition to all of your fine points, we also always have people’s garbage cans in the street due to everyone having a different collection day. Eyesore.

  6. Life sure is different east of the river.

    Paul, if you get a whiteboard for the bar, splurge on the 30 pack of markers. I’m occasionally held back by my 6-pack (markers, not abs or beer in this case).

  7. Pingback: Should Cities Mandate a Single Garbage Hauler? | Bill Roehl
  8. Municipalities should handle solid waste. It should be treated as a utility. Cities and counties should be able to give the private sector the boot! They might be cheaper at first but once the public sector gets overtaken, those rates will sky rocket for their greedy wallets!! Municipalities have proven to be successful by keeping money in the communities to provide better recycling opportunities. Not only within there own division but parks, streets, waste water, etc. Companies like WM, Republic are filth run by greed and have no concern for citizens! Free enterprise in the garbage business STINKS!

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