With complaints pouring in on the skyrocketing cost of the city’s new RecycleLA program, the City Council delayed taking any action Wednesday on authorizing one way to reduce the impact by allowing businesses to share waste bins.
The motion to authorize the Bureau of Sanitation to report on the feasibility of the bin sharing option was scheduled for a vote but continued to Sept. 6 without any explanation for the delay.
The franchise waste hauling system that went into effect July 1 is meant to expand recycling opportunities to thousands of businesses and apartment buildings while also cutting down on pollution by reducing the number of trucks on the street.
Although recycling may have increased since the rollout, so have prices, and some members of the council have said their offices have been flooded with angry phone calls from residents whose waste bills have multiplied by hundreds or thousands of dollars. Many residents have also complained that the quality of service has plummeted.
“Since the initial rollout of RecycleLA last month, my office has been inundated with calls and correspondence from small businesses, landlords, and homeowners associations expressing a common series of complaints and confusion: a lack of advanced notification, missed pick-ups, and significant or miscalculated rate increases,” Councilman Mike Bonin wrote in a letter to Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who is chair of the Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee and was also a chief architect of the program.
Under the RecycLA system — which was previously called the Zero Waste LA system — seven companies handle an estimated $3.5 billion in commercial waste hauling in Los Angeles. Each company is assigned as the sole trash hauler for commercial sites and multi-family complexes in one or more of the city’s 11 zones.
Before the change, recycling was only automatically available to single- family homes in the city.
Bonin also said some residents reported that their rates have doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled. When the RecycleLA program was approved last year, its proponents on the council said it would lead to more fair and predictable pricing.
“The program’s implementation has been tremendously flawed, and is proving to be as unpopular as the botched rollout of a new billing system at the Department of Water & Power,” Bonin said, referring to a glitchy system the utility started in 2013 that overbilled customers by $67.5 million.
Councilman Mitchell Englander also said his office was getting flooded with calls at a meeting last week of Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee.
“We’re all getting the same phone calls each and every day. Our office is overloaded,” Englander said. “In fact, I don’t remember a time where we’ve gotten so many irate phone calls over one particular issue that’s directly impacting so many different people.”
The motion delayed by the council was introduced by Englander and Councilman Bob Blumenfied and seconded by six others.
“Some businesses indicated that each business is required to have a set of bins which are subject to an established fee structure,” the motion states. “These businesses stressed that they generate far less recycling and waste materials that would justify having individual bins. As a result, they have half or quarter-filled bins, yet are paying the full price of each bin. In some cases, these businesses complained that the bin charges are too high.”
Bonin’s letter also asked if the city understands why rates have climbed so much and what authority it has to ensure these rates are fair and reasonable.
–City News Service