No surprise: Your garbage rates are going up 23 percent


As expected, Recology sent in its application for a rate increase Dec. 11, and most residential customers will see a hike of 23.5 percent, or about $6.50 a month. The hikes will be more complicated for commercial operations and apartment buildings, depending largely on how much waste those outfits can divert into recycling or compost.

The proposal would change the way rates are charged: Residential customers, who now pay a fee for the black cans holding landfill-bound garbage, will start paying a monthly $5 fee overall and $2 for compost and recycling.

The most dramatic increases will fall on large apartment buildings, which under the current rate structure are heavily subsidized, Eric Potashner, a spokesperson for Recology, told me. "We needed to restructure so the larger residential sector was paying fairly," he said.

Most large landlords absorb the cost of garbage service as part of the rent they charge. So the new costs may not get passed on to existing tenants.

Recology is facing a mandate to eliminate all landfill waste by 2020 -- and that's a bit of a problem: For years, the company only charged for black bins, which, if all goes according to plan, will eventually go away altogether. "And the trucks, the fuel costs, the drivers are all color-blind," Potashner said. "It costs the same to pick up the blue bins as the black bins."

The rate application is complicated, and I haven't been able to analyze every page. The city has hired an outside contractor to do exactly that, and the process takes months. The current proposal would take effect in June, 2013.

It's a significant increase, although not as high as some had predicted -- and not as high as 2001, when the company asked for almost 50 percent. Back then city staffers recommended the hike be cut almost in half, but then-Public Works Director Ed Lee gave Recology most of what it wanted.

Some of the money will go to cover additional costs Recology faces since the city has asked the company to pick up large refuse (you know, those old couches) that are left on the street.

But overall, according to Recology's application, the higher rates cover "increased costs and lower than anticipated revenues" -- in other words, the sucess of the recycling program has meant less income for the garbage company. Still, while Recology is a private company that doesn't release financial information, there's no indication that it's actually running in the red.




There can be no real competition in trash delivery. It all pretty much gets trucked or trained to one of a handful of places in the region.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 8:06 am

utility, which is why they are more regulated than one would like.

It is possible with power if you split up the company that manages the infrastructure from the power generator, and even PG&E has effectively done that internally.

Ironically Europe has gone far further with introducing competition in utilities than the US. My friends in Europe have a chocie of electric and gas supplier. But not water and trash, which is harder to do.

We could split up trash collection and trash processing, though.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 8:20 am

I'm surprised that you don't call for ending that stifling government regulation that doesn't allow landfills everywhere so that we could see some real competition!

Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

they can actually be landscaped quite nicely afterwards.

It's just that people don't like the word. But then no word about trash, garbage or refuse is particularly attractive.

It's a dirty business but . .

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

you can't compare costs between two cities and their garbage rates - they depend significantly on a lot of different factors beyond just who runs them and/or if it's a competitive market.

recycling/composting is expensive - san francisco has and wants a high diversion rate, so costs are going up - makes perfect sense to me.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 9:37 am

own garbage and not pay Recology a penny.

I'm sure you can hire an illegal with a truck to come once a month and haul it all away. And you can drive to the Recology depot and take it ourself.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 9:50 am

There is no competition for limited landfill space, it all costs the same. The presence of an unchecked monopoly that has to dump its waste the same place that every other provider does means that the service provider gets to raise prices on the captive audience.

This is not a problem of competition, it is a problem of a legal monopoly.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 11:14 am

Just substitute Hetch Hetchy for the one landfill and you have a monopoly. But because it's a public monopoly, there's a tendency to think that's OK then.

The problem isn't public versus private but monopoly versus competition. Ideally we could have private water supply and public trash processing as competitors to the current SFWater and Recology monopolices.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 11:57 am

Public monopolies are less of a concern because there is a nominal amount of oversight by the customer/voter over the provider/government than there is with a traditional monopoly.

One can elect people to office to change the nature of a public monopoly but one has no such recourse with Microsoft.

There is no evidence that competition on basic life critical resources carries any benefits except to those trying to provide less for more.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

Recology. The issue isn't so much who owns the utility but whether there is any choice.

Historically government services are inefficient because you have no choice but to use them, and so they don't have to be good or represent value for money. anyone who has dealt with, say SF PLanning or DBI knows that they are slow and incompetent. They get away with it because you have no choice.

Compare that with, say, phone services, which used to be a monopoly but where now there are lots of choices. Massive difference.

With competition, you don't needoversight because you can just switch supplier.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

The panacea of "competition" has not produced the desired results in healthcare, telecom, transportation, or just about any other industry.

Public oversight in the context of a democratic government remains the best and only way to ensure that services are performed as intended.

The truth is that neither government nor business is inherently more "efficient." Both are staffed by human beings with human failings. The difference is the purpose of what those human beings are there for.

Public agencies are charged with providing a service. Business is there for the sole purpose of making money for the business owners. Both do a pretty good job of doing what it is they're supposed to do.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

government generally staffed by unionized workers whose sole mission is to perpetuate their gravy train of pay, benefits and job security without in fact caring about service at all.

A company that wants my business will generally try and please me. A government that knows i have no choice but to use their monopoly will not give me the time of day.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

San Franciscans have organized to win elections and shown that we can change government when we do, there is no such option with a private firm especially if it is closely held like Recology.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

just like you do when you are not happy with your phone service, bank or car.

I have zero power to switch the government unless a few hundred thousand or more people just happen to agree with me. That's not power - it's powerlessness.

Just give me a choice, with a public option in there if it makes sense, and then let ME decide whose service I want to use. Instead you want to ram a public solution down my throat with no alternative for purely ideological reasons. Not cool.

And when I have a choice, I can choose FedEx over USPS, or Virgin Atlantic over some airline owned by a foreign government, like FinnAir.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

For water, electricity, and gas we pay a price based on how much we use. The biggest guzzlers pay a much higher rate for usage beyond basic and intermediate usage levels. We should demand the same choice for garbage services: once a month, bi-weekly, or weekly. The households generating the least trash would only need monthly and bi-weekly service, using far fewer resources (land-fill space which isn't cheap; expensive fuel, truck maintenance, and roadway wear and tear; labor hours; and many other marginal costs).

Almost every major company is reducing waste in their packaging. Many households are composting all of their organic waste and recycling their cans and bottles. Many people no longer get newspapers, perfering to get their news on-line. And most consumers have become very aware of their waste stream in general. The Bay Area especially has dramatically changed it waste habits but we're stuck with a one-size fits all government model that is both unfair to city residents and anti-environment since it encourages wastefulness.

Because the government controls the waste contracting process it should allow consumers a choice to reduce the amount of waste services needed. An open bidding process for once a month service, and a separate contract process for bi-weekly service, might attact other companies who would give people a choice and provide significant cost savings to city residents.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

Yes, the phone companies, PG&E and all tech support lines offer the best customer service becuz they really really care about their customers.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 14, 2012 @ 11:32 am

that you can name, including the ones you did name.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 14, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

As a tenant, I already have to pay for these ridiculous rates.

Don't the Supervisors have to vote on this?

Posted by Richard on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 11:01 am

Unless your lease specifies that you pay trash separately, then you're getting trash for free. That's a big part of why the Supes are not whining more - 2/3 of the voters don't pay trash. Always a bad idea.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 11:50 am

why you endorsed that turkey of a proposition (Prop B was it?).

Posted by Greg on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

supports more public spending indiscriminantly.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

however he wants to restrict choice for tech workers by getting rid of their private shuttles and forcing them to take Cal Train or MUNI. Choice is good when Tim agrees with the choices presented.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

These private elite shuttles make my commute longer, much more congested and dangerous on narrow streets, and smellier. And the residents who wait on the corners for their appointed limo aren't even very friendly or neighborly.

But when you live in SF long enough you understand the tech elites are the golden boys and girls that the Ed Lee's and Ron Conway's of the world drool over - super smart, 24/7 work engaged, socially aware and terminally hip, highly paid, and big, big consumers of food, alcohol, and real estate. And they are so busy making themselves and their company money they don't have time for making demands of government or conspiring with other faux-revolutionaries for a better world.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 7:12 pm

Especially when you consider that, but for them, there would be hundreds of extra cars on the road - that really would slow you down?

Sounds like you're just envious that others are more successful and have more than you. And the politics of envy never achieved anything.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 7:36 pm

None of that makes any sense, at all.

These private elite shopping carts make my commute longer, much more congested and dangerous on narrow streets, and smellier. And the turgid bums who wait on the corners for their appointed shower aren't even very friendly or neighborly.

Posted by matlock on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 11:19 pm

and tell us how much, if any, money each politician has received form recology.

Big Government always is telling us to conserve water, energy and recycle and when we do so, they then tell us that they need more money due to the revenue drop from our conservation. what a SCAM!!!

Posted by sftparty on Dec. 21, 2012 @ 10:52 am

Why does the Guardian feel like they need to turn the Recology logo black? Shame.

Posted by Sean on Apr. 05, 2013 @ 7:35 am

the voters have spoken give monopoly to recology, keep competitors out democracy in action

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2013 @ 5:29 pm