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What’s Next for St. Paul, Minn.’s Reorganized Waste Collection?

Haulers, residents and government staff worked with legal and financial representatives to hammer out rates and contract details.

Since the 1970s, St. Paul, Minn., residents have hired their own garbage haulers. That’s meant up to 15 different licensed haulers patrolling the same roads—often at the same times—while charging different rates to residents in single-family homes and apartments housing four or fewer families.

Last year, the city got serious about reorganizing the city’s residential garbage collection. That culminated in a decision this month—after 50 meetings, seven proposals and 10 draft contracts—by St. Paul’s city council to approve a contract that keeps all 15 haulers working in the city.

What will change is that now all the carts in the city will be standardized and belong to the city. Residents will have a choice between 32-, 64- or 95-gallon carts, and payments have been standardized, ranging from nearly $21 per month for the small cart serviced every other week, to approximately $35 per week for a large can collected each week.

Much had been to done to create the contract. Haulers, residents and government staff worked with legal and financial representatives to hammer out rates and details of a contract scheduled to kick in October 2018.

The process was a long and arduous one, says Waste Management Director of Government Affairs Julie Ketchum. It total, she says, it took nearly two years to get where things are today, and things were made more difficult by a Minnesota statute guiding the process to coordinated hauling.

Some elements of the law, she says, need to change. The length of time and resources spent were high price and grey areas of the law need to be clarified, says Ketchum. Despite those difficulties, all sides were able to come to an agreement.

However, there is more work to be done.

The city did not undertake the job of developing zones or routes for the approved haulers. That, the city says, is the job of the haulers themselves over the next several months.

A decision has yet to be made on who gets what part of the city, says Ketchum.

Haulers ideally would like to service the neighborhoods that are close to the hubs of their businesses, that offer collection efficiencies and that are relatively easy to collect and with a high return.

Each hauler will retain its current market share. So, for example, if Waste Management holds 20 percent of the market today, it will maintain 20 percent of the city when organized hauling begins, says Ketchum.

There is still a lot left to be determined, she says. If everything goes as planned, the October deadline is achievable, she says. If complications arise during the negotiations of the routes, it could be unrealistic.

Now the city and its haulers are heading into the implementation phase of the process.
One the state law does not cover.

“I think we came to a good conclusion and accomplished a lot of the goals during the long process,” says Ellen Biales, administrative programs manager for the St. Paul Public Works Department. “I feel like we’ve reached one big landmark, but there’s more work to be done.”

While the contract laid some groundwork for billing and routing, there is a pretty significant amount of work yet to be done, says Biales, and it will take a “robust” work schedule to get it up and running. Biales says should be collecting by Oct. 2018. Should more time be needed, it could be delayed to the following spring, she says.

“But we’re in good shape to move forward,” she says.

Teams made up of haulers and city staff from various departments will tackle specific assigned tasks for implementation in October. Some of those tasks include: routing, data issues, billing processes, customer service and cart management.

Routing, Biales says, will be a large piece of the next phase and how it will work. Additionally, carts will be ordered and public education regarding the new program will be put into place, she says.

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