FORUM | Consolidated trash collection in Saint Paul

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Unlike Minneapolis, which has government-managed trash collection resulting in a single collection option though the city, Saint Paul residents are permitted to shop around and choose any of more than a dozen licensed trash haulers to collect and remove their household rubbish.

With no action from the Saint Paul City Council, residents who grew tired of having four or five different haulers drive down their block or alley each week were left with no choice but to band together with neighbors to attempt block by block consolidation.  Now, after years of frustration for some, the City Council has begun to look into the issue to decide whether a government-managed trash collection system, similar to the  Minneapolis system, would work on this side of the river, or whether the current process should be left alone.

The Study:

At the August 12th, 2009 City Council Meeting, Council members Dave Thune, Lee Helgen and Russ Stark offered a resolution asking for a report to be prepared, which would outline steps and recommend possible options for implementing an organized solid waste collection system in the City of Saint Paul. The study was to be returned within 45 days; however, the report resulted in new questions and was referred back to City Council research for further review.

The Case for Trash Hauler Consolidation:

Mary Hamel, who lives in the Saint Anthony Park Neighborhood of Saint Paul, organized her block to consolidate their trash collection.  For Hamel and her neighbors, consolidation meant going from five different trash haulers driving down their alley each week to only one.

“We ended up going with Allied Waste,” said Hamel, “because 70% of the block was already using them, so fewer people would have to make a change. We also checked pricing-wise and they were willing to give us a discount as a block, so everyone was able to save money.”

Morguefile image“I live on a block with a large number of rental properties making it very difficult for residents to organize a single hauler – especially with the apartment buildings,” said Jennifer Anderson, a resident in the Union Park neighborhood of Saint Paul. “Without action by the city, there is very little we can do.”  According to Anderson, six different companies service the 11 homes and three apartment buildings on her block. 

“Every day there is a garbage truck in either the alley or on the street,” said Anderson. “It takes a huge toll on the road and the environment, and strikes me an inefficient business model.”

The Case Against Government Managed Trash Collection:

It’s important to have individuals make their own decision on who hauls their waste,” said Doug Carnival with the National Solid Waste Management Association. “This has been a tradition in Saint Paul for many years and it’s been a system that has operated very successfully in the vast majority of communities throughout the state of Minnesota.”

In fact, according to the NSWMA website, “in the last 10 years, 21 Minnesota cities and counties have studied government managed collection. In all cases, consumer choice has been preserved and the open competitive market built on innovation and quality service continues to provide the best value to citizens.”

“If you were to decide that one hauler had the entire city, you would prevent small halers from bidding on an entire city contract.  And if one hauler got that contract, you’d end up with many small haulers who would lose their customers through no fault of their own,” said Carnival.

Question: What do you think?

Daily Planet readers are invited to tell your own stories and add your thoughts by clicking on “Comment” below. Have you chosen a single trash hauler with your neighbors? Would you prefer to see city-wide action, allocating different areas for different haulers? Or do you like the current system of choosing your own trash hauler?