An ongoing labor shortage has hit a number of area industries including one you might not think of: Waste disposal. That shortage is largely to blame for a proposed hike in Commerce garbage pickup fees.
Waste Pro, the town’s sanitation service contractor, recently asked the city to consider a $7.63 increase in garbage/recycling pickup fees. The increase would bring the monthly cost to $23.34 per residential customer ($18.84 to Waste Pro and the remainder for the city’s brush truck, annual cleanup, etc.).
The request faced criticism for Commerce City Council members, who requested additional information on the request in July.
Waste Pro’s Jerry Harrison and Bob Wolk spoke at the council's Aug. 2 work session. Both pointed to the ongoing labor shortage as a major reason for the proposed increase.
“We’re having to pay (drivers) double what we had to pay them six months ago just to get them in the door and keep them,” said Wolk, who added the shortage has affected the industry in a number of other ways, too, from supply chain demands to repairs on equipment.
Harrison said 80-90% of the proposed $7 increase goes to the increased salaries needed to hire and retain good employees.
Some council members wanted to know what improvement citizens would get in return if the $7 hike is approved. Several council members cited existing service issues with missed pickups and cans that are turned over.
“You get a better driver. You get long-term employees because they’re going to quit leaving like they have been so you don’t have new drivers every other week,” said Harrison.
Complicating the matter is the recycling situation in the city. When recycling bins are used correctly and the load doesn’t meet the level of contamination at the recycling center, it’s still costing Waste Pro. While recycling was once a commodity that could be sold, waste companies now have to pay to recycle. Harrison said they pay $200 per load.
“Perfectly clean recycling sent to the recycling center still has an enormous cost,” Wolk echoed.
But it doesn’t appear most Commerce residents are using the recycling bins appropriately. Instead, many are using it as an overflow trash can, causing a large percentage of rejected, contaminated loads that cost Waste Pro and ultimately wind up in the landfill. Harrison estimated the company picks up 4 tons that are accepted at the recycling center each week. An estimated 13 are rejected due to contamination levels.
The council discussed briefly getting rid of the home recycling bins and having a centralized recycling event each month in their place. A Waste Pro employee would be on hand to check for contamination.
Going to a trash-only service would still result in a slight increase, city manager James Wascher said.
“So if we wanted trash only service, we’re still going to see an increase, but we’re not going to see the full $7 increase,” Wascher said, in addition to the manned recycling events.
The council also previously discussed rebidding the contract.
No action was taken on the matter.
See more coverage from the Commerce City Council meeting in the Aug. 11 issue of The Jackson Herald.