The City of South Burlington could manage trash better. Currently there are multiple providers of curbside trash collection travelling our neighborhoods each week covering the same ground. This redundant coverage drives up their operational costs, which increases the price of their service, all the while wearing our roads down more, creating more road safety hazards, burning more diesel fuel and creating more plowing obstacles in the winter. South Burlington is out of step with the vast majority of municipalities in the U.S. by not having some form of consolidated trash collection oversight.
South Burlington is committed to more energy efficient municipal practices. Part of that commitment demands we look at how we manage this important public safety service. Besides the unnecessary diesel fuel expended covering the same streets each week, some form of consolidated service would enable faster adoption of the new state mandate (Act 148) to separate organic materials from our residential waste streams.
This third waste stream will require more frequent pickups because of the health hazards and odorous nature of this waste stream. There are economies of scale to keep prices down while improving service if consolidated service methods assured one provider exclusive coverage area for contracted periods of time.
Beyond the environmental benefits consolidated trash service would offer South Burlington, this would also lower customer prices.
According to a Chittenden Solid Waste District contracted study done by DSM Environmental Services in 2012, “Businesses would see an estimated 20% decrease in their waste management costs on average. Households would see a drop of 24% if weekly pickup is provided and 32% if biweekly service is provided. The calculation of estimated environmental impacts shows that route consolidation and the accompanying increase in the quantities of recyclables collected results in reduced air and greenhouse gas emissions.”
This is already observed in the market; trash haulers offer 20% discounts to neighborhood associations that exclusively allow only one service for residents because of the operational cost efficiencies achieved with more pickups in a concentrated area.
From a city perspective, these heavy trucks take a toll on our neighborhood roads, often accelerating our very expensive street maintenance projects. Winter plowing is a lot harder when trash and recycling receptacles sprinkle the roads three times a week, and I have received many complaints about loud, early morning garbage trucks in our sleepy neighborhoods. With multiple providers covering the same neighborhoods, we are unnecessarily doubling the amount of heavy truck traffic in our neighborhoods without benefit to the consumer or the environment.
We already have pockets of consolidated service in South Burlington – our condominium associations have mostly all negotiated with one trash hauler to collect their community refuse. As these new neighborhoods were built, the economic and environmental benefit of consolidated trash made perfect sense, so it was sensibly embraced by homeowners’ associates as a coordinated service managed through a competitive bidding process.
As a resident of South Burlington, I would love to see that same sensible approach to this important public safety service be applied throughout the city with a municipally coordinated consolidated service of trash collection within our borders. But to be very clear, I do not want the city to buy the trucks or hire the drivers. I want private haulers to continue to thrive in our region and a competitive bidding process for exclusive collection rights to each of the 28 or so swaths of our city would allow them to do so – with higher margins improving their bottom line.
The South Burlington City Council approved a joint study with the City of Burlington about a year ago to evaluate consolidated service options for our municipalities. The report on this effort should be coming forward soon. I am excited to see how a consolidated service approach in South Burlington could get us to collect trash, recyclables and organic waste in a smarter more economical and more environmental manner.