Saint Paul residents who generate more garbage will pay more in 2022 under new rates adopted unanimously on November 17 by the Saint Paul City Council. Quarterly fee increases will range anywhere from a few cents to $5.58, depending on cart size and collection frequency.

“I heard very, very loud and clear from the council members and from residents that folks who are working hard to reduce the amount of garbage they’re generating should pay a smaller amount,” said Susan Young, who manages resident and employee services for the city’s Department of Public Works.

Organized residential trash collection in Saint Paul has been a controversial issue for years. The 2021 rate increase drew objections from several residents who said the city was not doing enough to provide incentives for those who reduce waste.

The 2022 changes drew only two public comments. Both residents wanted city officials to do more to reduce costs for those who generate less trash.

 

Highland Park resident Tim Morehead said his trash is picked up every other week and he feels he is “subsidizing others” who do not pay attention to waste reduction.

“Saint Paul’s existing fee structure works against city, state and national efforts to reduce trash volume,” said Ramsey Hill resident Eric Lien in an email to council members. His family owns and manages 140 apartments. Lien gave city officials a detailed proposal to further reduce trash rates.

“I heard very, very loud and clear from the council members and from residents that folks who are working hard to reduce the amount of garbage they’re generating should pay a smaller amount,” said Susan Young of Public Works.

Saint Paul has four service levels of trash collection for one- to four-unit residential properties. Here are the 2022 rates:

  • Small trash cart removal every other week goes up 7 cents or 0.1 percent from $59.23 to $59.30 per quarter.
  • Small trash cart weekly collection will increase 77 cents or 1.1 percent from $69.04 to $69.81 per quarter.
  • Medium trash cart weekly collection will increase $1.69 or 1.8 percent from $94.87 to $96.56 per quarter.
  • Large cart weekly collection will increase $5.58 or 5.5 percent from $101.23 to $106.81 per quarter.

Each plan includes a varying number of bulky items that can be disposed of at no additional charge. Young said opt-on fees will not increase in 2022. Those include added bulky item charges, yard waste subscriptions, one-time yard waste collections and charges for extra bags of garage.

The city’s administrative fee will increase slightly from $27.12 per residential unit in 2021 to $28.08 in 2022.

Young said the fees are affected by state and county charges, fuel costs, billing costs, the consumer price index, inflation, tonnage collected over the past year, and the entrance or tipping fee charged for the use of the disposal facility in Newport.

The trash tonnage increased 1.16 percent from July 2020 to July 2021. The tipping fee, which is set by a joint Ramsey and Washington county energy board, is increasing from $84 per ton this year to $87 in 2022. Young cautioned that a tipping fee increase to $99 per ton is projected for 2023 to pay for facility improvements.

Cubside composting program to start soon

A long-awaited residential curbside composting program is expected to start in late 2022 or early 2023. Residents will get specially designed bags that can be filled with compostable items and then placed inside trash carts. The bags will be separated from garbage at Newport.

Young said the rate increases, on top of county and state taxes, will result in an additional $683,000 being collected in 2022. One factor driving that increase is a slight uptick in residential trash customers. The number of active garbage collection accounts over the past year increased by roughly 0.5 percent to 72,126.

After years of debate and study, City Council members voted in 2017 to move to organized residential trash collection in Saint Paul. The city launched the program in October 2018 under a five-year contract. Owners of one- to four-unit properties were assigned to hauler districts and issued carts by the city. 

One argument for organized collection was that it would protect smaller trash haulers. However, some smaller, family-owned firms quickly sold their Saint Paul routes to larger companies. Saint Paul just a few years ago had 15 residential trash haulers. That number now stands at six—Advanced Disposal, Aspen Waste Systems, Gene’s Disposal Service, Highland Sanitation, Republic and Waste Management.

A petition with more than 6,400 signatures resulted in a 2019 ballot question to determine the future of organized residential trash collection in the city. Saint Paul voters opted to retain the program.

— Jane McClure

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