Organized Trash Collection Information
Created by Melissa Wenzel, Zero Waste Saint Paul Advocacy Chair. If you feel any statement is incorrect, please email her directly.
There’s a lot of misinformation being spread around organized trash in Saint Paul. Here is a list of some of the concerns we’ve heard from our neighbors and information around those concerns:
1. I want a way to return our trash pickup to the way it used to be. I think voting “no” will do that. Is that true? No; a no vote means the expenses will shift from the homeowner to the city, which will charge the cost directly to ALL taxpayers through taxes. Some residents will pay more than they pay now. But also, because all taxpayers will have to pay for residential homeowner trash service, this means that the costs for residential trash will have to be paid in taxes by businesses, multi-unit dwelling homeowners (larger than 4 units) and renters. And yet a “no vote” doesn’t do ANYTHING about ending the contract or allowing residents to share carts. It cancels the ordinance, yes, but it does NOT cancel the 5-year contract that the city has with the haulers. It's our understanding that the current trash service fees are the "new normal or the current “market rate.” Source: City of Saint Paul’s website
2. Didn’t trash collection fees go up for everyone? No. Before, many people were paying far more than they are now. Organized trash collection is very much an equity issue. A lot of people were paying “below market rate” and are now paying “their fair share.” Everyone with the same sized cart/frequency pays the same price across the city. Before, newer homeowners or those who couldn’t negotiate rates were paying a lot more than they are now, because they were paying “above market rates” which actually subsidized by those who enjoyed “below market rates”. Before organized trash collection, rates for the exact same service (same sized cart, same frequency of pickup) varied from $11-$70 per homeowner PER MONTH! Source, City of Saint Paul Chief Resiliency Officer, Russ Stark
3. Don't the majority of our fees pay for disposal of the trash, and shouldn’t those who generate very little waste pay very little? No. The majority of the “garbage fees” go to wages, truck use/fuel, administrative overhead, managing accounts/payments. In fact, the city of Minneapolis’ trash disposal fees are similar to ours but are more clearly laid out. Everyone pays a monthly base fee of $24.53, and people either pay an extra $2 a month for weekly service of a small cart, or $5 a month for weekly service of a large cart. The city of Minneapolis does not offer any other cart choices or frequency of service. And every homeowner is required to have service, including small multi-unit (1-4 units) building residents. Stated a different way, the majority of one’s trash bill is the service (which includes living wages, vehicles, fuel, billing, etc). Back to Saint Paul, our basic minimum trash collection/removal service is weekly, small cart service. Why? because a trash hauler still goes down the street weekly even for those with every-other-week (EOW) service. Thus, we consider the small weekly service the “base” fee, and people pay more (or less) based on cart size or frequency of pickup.
The tipping fee (disposal fee in the information above) are fees paid by waste haulers to deliver (or tip) trash at the R&E Center. The revenue from tipping fees pays the cost of operating the R&E Center. The 2019 tipping fee is $79.00 per ton of trash. Waste haulers have received a rebate, or subsidy, to reduce their overall cost for tipping trash. Beginning in 2020, waste haulers will not receive a rebate, and will pay the full cost of the tipping fee. According to the Ramsey Washington website, "Generally, a household produces about one ton (2,000 pounds) of trash each year. At a 2019 tipping fee of $79 per ton, the monthly disposal cost is estimated at $5.75 for an average household. With the 2020 tipping fee set at $82 per ton, the monthly disposal cost would be $6.83, an increase of $1.08 per month for the average household. And yet, our trash service fees are going down in 2020!!
4. Many people were happily sharing carts with neighbors without any issues. Why can't we go back to that? Yes, but this was never legal. Because most of the trash service fees are associated with LIVING wages, vehicles/fuel/maintenance, billing and other overhead costs, those who paid for trash service were actually subsidizing those who didn’t pay. Over 9,000 households weren’t paying for trash service, out of 72,000 households in the city. Because there's a fixed, city-wide cost to managing all residential trash in the city, it meant the remaining 63,000 homeowners paid the bill for those 9,000 homeowners. It seems unlikely there were over 9,000 “low waste” households, even if some homeowners hauled their own trash, brought it to work/parks, or sadly, illegally discarded it (illegal dumping, illegal burning). Source: Star Tribune
5. The organized trash collection contract put many small haulers out of business. No, it didn’t. Small/independent haulers around the nation are selling all or part of their businesses to national haulers or simply retiring.
6. I can’t compost my waste/I really want curbside organics collection so I can reduce waste and save money. Actually, the city's plan is to arrange for curbside organics pickup and recycling after the dust settled on organized trash collection. If you want curbside organics collection sooner, Vote Yes! If voters vote “no,” there’s going to be a delay in the roll-out of curbside organics recycling. It was originally slated for roll-out in 2021, the same time when sustainable take-out containers are required for all dining/food establishments. Also, it’s likely that the county will be going to a “durable organics bag” collection, which will allow residents to put a bag of compostable materials in their trash bin. So the costs associated in the organized trash collection will support the development of future efficiencies and improvements such as curbside organic pickup. For now, all residents are encourage to utilize the county's 13 organics recycling drop-off sites.
7. I’m being forced to pay for trash service I don’t need. We disagree. As described above, there's a "base" cost for simply having any trash service, regardless of how much or how little you generate. A city of our size should have basic utility services provided, like electricity, water, and sewer, and an organized trash collection system. That comes at a cost, with a basic cost of service that each household should have to pay. The least expensive option, the small bin, every-other-week service, is only being utilized by 7% of households, according to the city of Saint Paul. Switch to a smaller cart or reduce your service to every-other-week and save money today!
8. Other cities around us charge SO MUCH LESS for trash service. No, they don’t. Minneapolis residents pay $24.53 a month + $2 for a small cart weekly service or +$5 for a large cart weekly service. Saint Paul residents pay between $20.28 a month for small cart every-other-week service to $34.15 a month for large, every-week service. In fact, our city gives us 4 choices of service where Minneapolis only gives their residents 2 choices for trash service.
9. The only way to get something better than what we have now is to “vote no”. Again, we disagree. Our stance is that we believe that working WITH the city and haulers to tweak the existing contract is a better way to improve the organized trash collection system. The city is willing to negotiate; the haulers may need more incentives to do so. We believe this is a problem we can solve together.
10. Because trash rates are “high” now, they’re only going to go up and we’ll have to pay more. Not true! Next year’s rates will actually be going down! Why? Because haulers didn’t know the exact volume or trash generated per household (partly because so many households didn't pay for trash service), and the haulers and the city have a year’s worth of data now, and residents dispose of less trash than what was estimated. In fact, those with the smallest trash service (small cart, every other week) sees the greatest reduction in trash service fees.
The draft ordinance is available for viewing. The timeline for potential implementation is:
- September 30: Public Notice of Public Hearing to Legal Ledger
- October 16: First Reading (City council meeting, item #22)
- October 23: Second Reading
- November 6: Third Reading – Public Hearing, continued
- November 13: Fourth Reading – Public Hearing, Final Adoption
- November 18: Ordinance Published in Legal Ledger
- December 18: Ordinance Effective Date
- January 1: New rates effective
- January 5: Q1 2020 Bills sent
11. The city didn’t allow residents to have a say or ignored citizen concerns. Yes, it did. The city actually had a very public process, with public engagement starting in 2016. According to the city's website, the city had nearly 50 meetings on the topic since August of 2016. There were 10 draft contracts with the final one agreed upon by the city and each of the haulers. The final contract meets priorities set by the City Council. In fact, it was BECAUSE OF RESIDENTIAL INTEREST that led the city to research this topic in the first place! To see how the city engaged in the community, visit the city of Saint Paul’s Coordinated Collection page.
12. The city is unwilling to work on issues of sharing carts, either for single-family homeowners or multi-unit dwellings. Not true. According to CM Amy Brendmoen, the city is VERY interested in discussing this opportunity with haulers, and contracts CAN be opened if both parties agree. At this moment, both parties are not in agreement to open the contract at this time. Also, so few residents are taking advantage of the least costly option, the bi-weekly small cart option. What would compel the city, or the haulers, to negotiate a lower rate for less trash if people aren't taking advantage of that part of the current system today? Also, the administrative work that it would take to allow cart sharing, and to charge other people more (because the $27 million trash bill has to be paid somehow) may not make the idea of cart-sharing worth it at all.
13. I’m a renter. This doesn’t impact me. Yes it does, because costs WILL impact renters if voters vote no. It is our understanding that because all tax payers (renters, homeowners, business owners) will pay for residential trash service through a tax system, an increased cost to a landlord will likely be passed along to their renter(s).
14. I’m a condo owner in a larger (4+) unit building. This doesn’t impact me. Yes it does. If voters vote no, condo owners will pay TWICE for trash service. Even though condo buildings separately contract for trash service (like businesses do), if voters vote “no” and the fiscal responsibility shifts from residential bills to costs embedded in taxes, EVERY taxpayer (every resident and business) will be assessed in their taxes for residential trash services, even though they organize/pay for trash service separately.
15. There are still a lot of haulers and recycling trucks on the road; the reduction in # of haulers in the same area didn’t make a big difference. There are long-term benefits of organized trash. MN Pollution Control Agency estimates that for unorganized trash collection, a city uses an estimated 375% (nearly 4 times) the fuel as organized trash. Roads and alleys have far fewer heavy vehicles going down them; there are cost savings from wear and tear on the roads. There is a reduction of vehicle noise and disruption from trucks in our lives. Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
16. Isn't the city supposed to charge more per gallon for those who generate more trash/have a bigger sized trash cart? No, it's not a legal requirement. MN Statute 115A, states:
- Subdivision 1.Requirement. A local government unit that collects charges for solid waste collection directly from waste generators shall implement charges that increase as the volume or weight of the waste collected on site from each generator's residence or place of business increases.
- Subd. 2.Volume requirement. If a local government unit implements a pricing system based on volume instead of weight under subdivision 1, it shall determine a base unit size for an average small quantity household generator and establish a multiple unit pricing system that ensures that amounts of waste generated in excess of the base unit amount are priced higher than the base unit price.
Additional thoughts: St. Paul led the way on curbside recycling pick-up. We have fallen way behind since then and we have some catching up to do. We want our city to be a leader in responsible, innovative, and affordable trash disposal again. We’re looking forward to the roll-out of curbside organic collection. Organized trash service is a step in that direction. Why would we give up before we’ve really given it a chance?
Resources and links that support a "Vote Yes" campaign
There are a LOT of city links and resources that support our “Vote Yes” stance:
Citywide Garbage Service - Facts & Numbers, As Reported By The City And The Garbage Haulers
Units per Property Type:
- City’s information about the referendum/ballot vote PDF summary about the referendum/ballot vote
- City’s FAQs about what a “yes” vote and “no” vote would do, per city attorneys
- City’s Organized trash collection history, steps, and transition process
- City’s Organized Trash Collection in Saint Paul: Report on Community Input and Draft Goals and Objectives
- Survey responses from 2,000 residents prioritization related to trash collection Executive summary of community engagement and feedback
- Official “Vote Yes!” website
- Official “Vote Yes!” Facebook page
- Official “Vote Yes!” Twitter page
- Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Zero Waste Saint Paul's "Organized Trash Collection Information" page
Citywide Garbage Service - Facts & Numbers, As Reported By The City And The Garbage Haulers
Units per Property Type:
- Single Family 59,878 (82%)
- Duplex 10,575 (14%)
- Triplex 1,354 (2%)
- Fourplex 1,678 (2%)
- Townhomes 685 (.9%)
- Number of residential units (1-4) in the program: 73,485
- Number of units that did not have identified garbage service prior to Oct 1, 2018: 9,300
- Total tons of garbage collected in Saint Paul (Oct. 1, 2018 - July 1, 2019): 30,410,260
- Total garbage pick-ups (Oct 1, 2018 - July 1, 2019): 2,843,869
- Total missed garbage pick-ups (Oct 1, 2018 - July 1, 2019): 2,735 or .001%
- Total number of bulky items collected (Oct 1, 2018 - July 1, 2019): 4,648