More Complaints of City’s New Trash Hauling Program

Under the city’s new recycLA program, blue recycling bins, like the one pictured have free trash collection, meant to encourage recycling, while black bins still incur a fee. However, several local business owners report that even with smaller black bins, their trash pickup costs are now higher than ever under the new program.

Los Angeles businesses, property owners and tenant organizations are voicing ongoing concerns about the escalated cost of garbage collection under a new sanitation program called recycLA, which started in July.

Proponents of recycLA say it is critical to the city’s goal to recycle more than 90% of its trash and reduce landfilling to 10%, but some commercial and multi-family garbage collection customers say the program unfairly imposes major pricing increases.

William Joseph Miller, secretary treasurer of a tenants association in Los Feliz, said trash collection costs for the building he manages on North Kenmore Avenue went from $150 per month before recycLA to $500 per month since the program took effect.

“I didn’t have any say so about how we were going to manage this situation,” said Miller. “I got a contract that I was forced to sign and I wasn’t able to negotiate anything, but I tried. And that was basically it.”

Under recycLA, businesses and multi-family buildings are required to use a private trash-hauling contractor assigned by the city.

The program divides Los Angeles geographically into 11 collection zones. Each zone is assigned one exclusive trash hauler.

Miller said he has also noticed some of recycLA’s fees are inconsistent from one property to another.

Like many, Miller’s organization pays a $108 monthly “distance charge” because trash haulers have to move bins 100 to 200 feet to allow collection trucks access to them.

But an adjacent building that is identical in design to Miller’s is only charged such a fee for its black waste trash bin, while Miller’s association pays the fees for both its blue recycle bin and black bin, according to billing statements for both buildings.

“This is just one of the glaring inequities of the billing process,” said Miller.

However, according to a spokesperson fro the Los Angeles Dept. of Public Works, such inequities should not be occuring. The fees are standardized and non-negotiable, the spokesperson said, adding the only way customers can avoid such a fee is if they move their bins themselves to stop their distance charges.

Other fees under the recycLA program include additional costs if the trash hauler has to unlock a gate at a location or for the removal of graffiti from bins, for example.

Customers can schedule a “waste assessment” evaluation on the Bureau of Sanitation’s website to try and decrease their costs. But Miller said his request to discuss collection costs with his provider, have so far been denied.

Elena Stern, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Dept. of Public Works, said during the waste assessment the customer is empowered to ask, “If I unlock that gate and move the bin toward the street so there is less distance, can I pay less? The answer should be yes,” she said.

According to Stern, customers need to know the right questions to ask during their waste assessment. But many customers have said communication and education about the program has not been provided by the city.

Atwater Village Chamber of Commerce President Luis Lopez said that after working with his providers, Universal Waste Systems, he pays $218 per month, a reduction of about $70 from his original bill under the new program. Previously, he said, he only paid about $150 per month.

According to Lopez, he reduced his costs by reducing services. He has smaller bins now, fewer pickups and he pushes his own bins to the street, he said.

“I’ve called City Council offices about it and they say to take it up with sanitation. I call sanitation and they say ‘We’re just the messengers and to call the [trash service] provider.’ Then the provider tells me to contact City Council because that’s who voted for it,” Lopez said. “I’m literally getting the runaround.”

According to city officials, the program encourages businesses to recycle more in order to reduce their costs, as customers are only charged for black bin waste service while blue-bin recycling service is free.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti championed recycLA as part of an effort to reduce trash in landfills and streamline and reduce the cost of trash collection across Los Angeles.

Andy Hasroun, who owns commercial property and Link N Hops restaurant in Atwater Village, said he has always recycled as much as possible, but now his costs have increased almost 500%.

“They’re hiding behind the environment,” Hasroun said. “I’m already recycling. How is this going to be beneficial to the environment?”

Hasroun said he has reached out to the Mayor’s office, City Council members and sanitation officials, but has not yet been offered a solution to reduce his costs.

“Everybody is looking at me like I’m wasting my time,” said Hasroun.

He said if he does not fight for lower prices now, he is worried that costs will continue to increase until he is forced out of business. “There’s nothing to stop them,” he said.

Weekly collection pricing for the largest black bin is capped at $295 according to the Dept. of Sanitation’s 2017 rate chart. But Hasroun said he’s worried the cap will be raised a little bit each year.

He has a meeting scheduled with his provider to discuss his costs, but he said he doubts it will change anything.

The Los Angeles City Council has acted to investigate potential cost-reducing measures like allowing collection customers to share bins and City Councilmembers David Ryu and Mitch O’Farrell have said they’re administrations will work toward solutions to reduce costs under the program.

“Our office continues to receive complaints, some repeat callers and some new [ones] as the program rolls out into other areas,” said Tony Arranaga, a spokesperson for O’Farrell’s office. “Due to the response from constituents and stakeholders, Councilmember O’Farrell is looking at possible options to address the concerns.”

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