The dirty business of trash collection should be getting cleaner in Los Angeles as the City Council voted Friday to finalize waste hauling contracts aimed at improving environmental standards in the industry.
The Zero Waste LA system calls for seven companies to handle an estimated $3.5 billion in commercial waste hauling in Los Angeles, and each of the companies would be assigned as the sole trash hauler for commercial sites and multi-family complexes in one or more of the city’s 11 zones.
“This is one of the most important policy issues that this council will be passing the last few years,” Councilman Jose Huizar said before the vote.
In earning a 10-year contract with the city set to begin in July, the waste hauling companies had to meet specific environmental and employment standards.
The goal, supporters say, is to increase recycling, reduce air pollution from truck traffic and increase environmentally friendly job opportunities.
Huizar said the new standards would reduce waste by 65 percent in the city and that the new standards would also make rates farer, as the city found they varied widely and even sometimes were different for businesses on the same block due to the multitude of hauling companies working in the same area.
“Today, we will change that and bring fair, predictable rates to customers without punishing people for doing the right thing and wanting to recycle,” Huizar said.
After the vote, Councilwoman Nury Martinez said, “What we passed today will result in a tremendous environmental benefit and set the example for the rest of the country. It will lead to better paying jobs and benefits, cleaner truck fleets and more recycling and less waste going to our landfills.”
Robert Nothoff, director of Don’t Waste LA, said, “Our goal was to reimagine and reshape what the waste industry could look like, and I am excited to say that with today’s vote, we have done just that.”
Don’t Waste LA is a coalition of community, environmental, faith and labor organizations and was an advocate for the passage of the motions.
The council also approved a separate motion that the Bureau of Sanitation develop strategies and opportunities for minorities and women in the fields of waste management and recycling. In studying the issue, the council found only a 2.23 percent participation for women-owned businesses and 2.98 percent for minority-owned businesses in the industry.
While addressing his comments to waste hauling representatives that may have been in the audience, council President Herb Wesson said, “I just want to let you know that we are serious, that we are watching, that seven, eight of us on this council are people of color. This is not going to sit well for us, so we are going to afford you the opportunity to do the right thing.”
Wesson added, “Trust me, we are going to be like Santa Claus. We’re going to make a list. We’re going to check it twice and find out who is naughty or nice.”
The two motions passed with a 13-0 vote.
The recommended franchise rights awards went to:
- Athens, which would have the largest share of the customers with 21,864 accounts in West Los Angeles, Harbor and North Central zones.
- Republic Services, which would handle 16,820 accounts in the Northeast Valley and South Los Angeles zones.
- Waste Management, which would have 15,526 accounts in the West Valley and Southeast Valley zones.
- UWS, or Universal Waste Systems, with 6,106 accounts in the Northeast zone.
- NASA Services, which would get 1,771 customers in the Downtown zone.
- Ware Disposal, which would cover 1,817 customers in the Southeast zone.
- And CalMet Services, which is assigned to 1,013 accounts in the East Downtown zone.
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