Members of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works criticized officials from Waste Management Wednesday amid an investigation into video that showed a company driver dumping recyclable materials into a regular trash-collection truck.
Board members blasted the commingling of non-recyclables with recyclables as a blatant violation of the company’s contract with the Bureau of Sanitation’s RecycLA program.
Video obtained by CBS2 and broadcast in December showed a Waste Management driver dumping recycling materials into a trash-hauler. The video set off an investigation by city sanitation officials, and board members said the city has cited the company for it.
Board President Kevin James said the video — showing the driver of a smaller pickup truck pulling into a driveway to haul recyclable materials, which are then lifted into the larger dump truck — depicts actions akin to a “conspiracy.”
“That demonstrates a level of intent that is very alarming to me,” James said. “You could call it fraud because we have a program … its name is RecycLA. Everyone knows what this program is about. Customers are paying additional funds for the added benefit of recycling that has known benefits across the region, really across the nation.”
James said it wasn’t negligence or an accident but that the drivers participated to intentionally violate the contract terms.
Douglas Corcoran, a Waste Management director of public sector solutions, said company were appalled by the video, and the company has hired a third-party firm to conduct an investigation into the matter.
“That’s about the 35th time I’ve watched that video,” Corcoran said after the video was shown the in the Board of Public Works meeting. “And honestly, every time it feels like a punch in the gut. We probably have … more than 200 people on this contract doing an excellent job every day, better than 99% of the time, but clearly we have a situation here we’re in (when) less than 1% of the time … something didn’t go right.
“Honestly, it’s crushing. It’s embarrassing to look at that, and you can’t watch that video without having a visceral reaction.”
Corcoran said there may have been a lack of communication between WM officials and drivers that contributed to the recycled materials being dumped into the trash truck.
Board members said complaints about the incident were submitted to Waste Management in August, but it wasn’t until the December video surfaced that any action was taken.
The city’s investigation will include a look at that timeline gap between the complaint being filed and the video surfacing.
Representatives from other waste-hauling companies that contract with the city were also asked to attend Wednesday’s meeting. Board members said they wanted to make it clear to the businesses that commingling trash and recyclables is unacceptable.
The companies contracted with Los Angeles for waste collection are Waste Management, Athens Services, Republic Services, Universal Waste Systems Inc., CalMet Services Inc., NASA Services and Ware Disposal Inc.
James said the board hopes to conclude its investigation by the end of February, when a hearing will be held on the findings and possible penalties could be recommended. That could include asking the City Council to terminate its RecycLA contract with Waste Management, board members said.
If more instances of commingling trash and recyclables are found in the investigation, City Attorney’s Office representatives said there is language in the contract that could punish the company for each time it violated the contract terms.
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