Advisory seeks new request for proposals from haulers.

A 48-page report presented on September 14 by Saint Paul’s Garbage Advisory Committee recommends changes in the city’s four-year-old system of organized trash collection. The City Council will review the report in the weeks ahead as it considers a new contract with the consortium of private haulers who collect trash in Saint Paul.

The city’s current contract with the haulers consortium expires in 2023. It began in the fall of 2018 when the city first adopted a system of organized trash collection for all single-family and two-to-four-unit residences.

A controversial system.

The mandatory system has been controversial. Supporters have praised it for its uniform pricing and reducing the number of trucks lumbering down streets and alleys. Opponents fought its adoption, complaining that it forced them to pay for a service they rarely if ever needed, prevented them from sharing a cart with a neighbor, and took away their ability to choose their own hauler to get the best service at the lowest price. They tried to rescind the new system through a citywide referendum in 2019, but failed.

Sarah Axtmann, who chairs the Garbage Advisory Committee, described its 18 members as “very committed and very passionate” about garbage. They studied trash collection from February to June, and though they did not agree on everything, Axtmann said, they all believe that garbage collection is not only an issue of public health, but of equity.

Advisory committee seeks changes.

The advisory committee is not happy with how the consortium of private haulers has operated, Axtmann said. It is recommending several changes in operations and that a new request for proposals be issued by the city before entering into a new contract. The committee also wants the city to consider taking over the operation of residential trash collection entirely.

From 17 to only five private haulers.

One concern about the current system is how the number of private haulers serving the city has changed. When Saint Paul first moved toward organized collection, 17 private haulers were serving homes across the city. The consortium of private haulers was formed to protect the market share of the smaller, locally owned haulers. However, since organized collection began, several smaller haulers have sold out to larger national firms. Now there are only five haulers in the consortium–Gene’s, Highland, Republic, Aspen and Waste Management.

The advisory committee has recommended that with the new contract, customer billing and customer service be handled by the city and not the haulers consortium. “We heard many complaints from residents,” Axtmann said. Some of the complaints were about misinformation. That may be because the haulers typically serve multiple cities with various rules.

City Council members have fielded complaints about the private haulers themselves. “People call us and we have to send them back to the haulers they’re already frustrated with,” said council president Amy Brendmoen. Council members agreed that having city staff handle customer service and billing may be a good idea.

The prospect of opting out of trash collection.

The advisory committee could not agree on whether to allow residents to share a cart or opt out of trash collection. “People who don’t produce a lot of garbage ask why they should have to help pay for the entire system,” Axtmann said. One idea is to charge a smaller fee for people who want to opt out of trash collection service. A base fee could be implemented on top of the cart fees, Axtmann suggested.

Another idea is to allow homeowners associations to share trash carts or dumpsters rather than mandating one cart per dwelling. However, that would not help other landlords whose tenants don’t need or don’t have the space for multiple carts.

Decrease in illegal dumping never happened.

One much-touted benefit of mandatory trash collection was a reduction in the illegal dumping of trash and bulky items. However, that reduction never happened. The city spent $703,734 cleaning up 2,541 instances of illegal dumping in 2021. In 2018 it spent $447,122 addressing 2,573 instances of illegal dumping.

Under the current system, residents may dispose of two or three bulky items per year depending on their level of service. However, many residents are not using the service. Only 10 percent of the allowable bulky items are being collected.  

“We were very excited about bulky items pickup,” said Ward 7 City Council member Jane Prince, but it hasn’t had the effect the city had hoped for.

— Jane McClure


MyVillager welcomes comments from readers. Please include your full name and the neighborhood in which you live. Be respectful of others and stay on topic. We reserve the right to remove any comment we deem to be profane, rude, insulting or hateful. Comments will be reviewed before being published.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Rockie Weymouth, Macalester-Groveland

    I wonder if the bulky item service isn’t being highly used because many residents don’t know about the service or how it works. I, myself, would have to check to see exactly what the procedure is, and I’m pretty plugged in. I think you have to phone somewhere first(?) Any new service needs to be publicized until residents get used to it. When I lived in Minneapolis, it was easy to remember that every 2 weeks on garbage pickup day, I could put out up to 2 bulky items to be hauled away (no phoning anywhere). Boy, I miss that.

Leave a Reply