There are a lot of questions that need to be asked in this trash franchise deal – starting with, why Waste Management?

16 Nov

Edd Hamilton of Chico wrote an interesting letter to the ER, posted this morning. He seems to be open to the franchise discussion, but at least he’s asking some good questions. Hamilton asks, “For as many years as these companies (Waste Management and Recology) have been servicing Chico, why aren’t they doing a better job at recycling?”

Hamilton cites Chico’s poor 32% “diversion rate”, comparing it to Paradise, at 58%. Paradise went with a franchise agreement six years ago, kicking out Waste Management and Recology in favor of a local company. Some local businessmen got together to turn longtime family-owned Paradise Solid Waste  into Northern Recycling and Waste Services. Hamilton’s not the first person I’ve heard say nice things about NRWS. When that deal first went down, people complained about the mandate that everybody had to have trash service, but apparently people are happy enough with the service after six years to comply. 

I remember when locally owned companies operated in Chico – most notably, Tom’s Dispose-All. We had a guy named Pete who came down our street every week, a real cool dude, a Fonzi among garbage men. He drove nice and slow, he’d get out, put his cigarette in one corner of his mouth, and with his slick looking black leather gloves, pick up our bin and jauntily swing it up into the truck hatch, dump it out with a bonk-bonk, and place it right back at the end of the driveway. My kids were tots then, we got a big kick out of the garbage truck, and every Thursday morning, we appeared in our front window to watch Pete take our cans. He always waved at us as he swung back into the truck. 

When NorCal Waste bought out Tom’s Dispose-All, customers like us were so unhappy, Tom himself came around, door-to-door, to smooth it over. He told us he’d been forced out, there was nothing he could do about it. We didn’t understand, now we get it – the city cut his permit, in favor of the bigger haulers, two companies that over a period of years, name change after name change, became “Waste Management” and “Recology.”  The first time the new hauler came around our house, they immediately trashed our can, ripped the top and part of the back off dumping it into the truck, and just left it sitting there at the end of the driveway, unusable. We complained, loud and clear, said we wanted Pete back. So, Pete came around with a new can the next week, promised us the new guys would be more careful, and bid us a watery-eyed adieu. 

We had Waste Management for years. They sucked. With the new hauler permits, the city required haulers to offer recycling, which was useless for us because we did  and still do our own recycling at Work Training Center. We took our beer, soda and water bottles in for cash, so we didn’t mind taking our yogurt containers and peanut butter jars for donation. But, when recycling became free, we went along with it, carefully sorting our plastics and paper and glass all into separate containers. We did, however, continue to take the cash stuff to WTC. Apparently, this makes the recycling bin worthless to the big haulers – one day, I caught my garbage man tossing the recycling right into the trash truck. When I confronted him, he told he, “oh, we’ll have it sorted out back at the plant…” Right, sure – people are going to go  through garbage that’s been crushed to a pulp in the back of a stinking truck to sort out bits of plastic and glass and whatever. Right. I cancelled my WM service right then and there. 

We went without trash service for years after that. Since we were renovating houses at the time, we were always making trips to the dump.  We just got some good Rubbermaid bins with locking handles on the lids, and were really careful to sort everything. We’ve always composted our food trash, so we didn’t have to worry about pests in our garbage cans. 

We finally came back to trash service when we became landlords. Luckily, Butte Disposal had become Recology, and they’d changed a  lot of their operation. To this day, they have  a lot friendlier drivers and staff, they don’t speed through my neighborhood, and they don’t drive illegally across my property to serve their customers on the other side. Waste Management used to insist they had  the right to use our private driveway to serve their customers. They were destroying the driveway,  made ruts that still look like lakes every winter, and ripped branches off the little tree along our back fence. Once they took out a power pole turning a truck around, and tried to tell us we’d have to pay to replace it. I only got them off my property by taking them to the city of Chico, who backed me up and told them to stay off my property.   A group of six WM representatives came into the meeting, looking like the cast of The Sopranos, and  tried to get the city to force me to allow them to bring their trucks down the gravel driveway running right under my kitchen windows, but the law was on my side. 

When the neighbors switched to Recology, I thought I’d have to go through the whole thing again, but the woman who answered my call told me they’d never come down a private driveway, that was against their policy. 

According to Hamilton’s letter, Waste Management still sucks, apparently illegally charging people for recycling service that is supposed to be free (included in the cost of trash service, anyway). The first thing I thought when I heard they were switching to franchise zones is, I will not have Waste Management again, period. I won’t do business with them again. As far as I’m concerned, they’re all Tony Soprano.  They’re too big to fight, they do what they want. 

Instead of franchise zones, let’s open to more haulers, including Northern Recycling and Waste Services. When have monopolies ever been good for the customer? 

Letter: Keep an eye on your trash bill

Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED:   11/16/2013 12:14:07 AM PST

At the last City Council meeting, we heard a review by R3 Consulting (contracted by the city) on recommendations on solid waste and recycling permits vs. franchise agreements for the city of Chico.

Reading the R3 review, I was disappointed and a bit shocked that Chico is only at a 32 percent diversion rate. We currently have two companies that present themselves as “green” and “zero waste,” and the lack of recycling at our schools and businesses is not applicable with the image they portray. For as many years as these companies have been servicing Chico, why aren’t we doing a better job at recycling? Paradise has only been recycling for six years and they have had a diversion rate of over 58 percent since the first year they started, which was when they went with another company and removed Waste Management and Recology.

Ann Schwab was nice enough to give praise to both companies at the last meeting. However I was wondering for what exactly? I noticed that Waste Management started charging me for recycling services this last billing cycle, which R3 reported they cannot do under their current permit specifications. When I called to have them change it they did, but do all residents know that this recent billing increase by Waste Management is a direct violation of their permit agreement with the city? To erroneously charge our residents is a huge billing mistake. How many people will continue to be charged without someone letting them know?

— Edd Hamilton, Chico

2 Responses to “There are a lot of questions that need to be asked in this trash franchise deal – starting with, why Waste Management?”

  1. Norman B. Beecher December 1, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    I agree. Waste Management is remarkably anti-recycling. We have tried repeatedly to get a second barrel for recycling. Waste Management has simply refused or failed to provide anything, or address the issue with us further, despite over a dozen discussions and requests. Most of our recycling — most of our trash, actually, since most of our waste is now recyclable — is left for us to take to the recycling centers and/or landfill ourselves. Waste Management is the do-nothing Neanderthal of the trash pickup industry. A dinosaur which relies on its size to prevent anyone from criticizing it or changing its practices.
    Norman B. Beecher, Chico

    • Juanita Sumner December 1, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

      thanks for commenting – I’ll blog this again soon, stay tuned!

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