CFL News
May 23, 2011

Privatizing recycling service would cost city millions annually

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s plan to privatize household recycling would saddle Chicago homeowners with hidden costs, collection fees and late-night deliveries.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

By Fran Spielman

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s plan to privatize household recycling would saddle Chicago homeowners with hidden costs, collection fees and late-night deliveries while depriving the city of millions of dollars in revenue from the sale of recyclables, union leaders contend.

Laborers Union Local 1001, whose members stand to lose their jobs to a private contractor, is further arguing that the 14-year contract would shortchange minorities and women, who would get just 9 percent and 3 percent of the deal respectively. That is a far cry from the 25 and 5 percent set-asides tied to most other city contracts.

Local 1001 business manager Lou Phillips noted that the city’s own forecasts project $3 million from the sale of recyclables this year, nearly three times the take in 2010.

“Can we afford to give up such an expanding, long-term revenue stream that, in reality, is better than the now-famous parking meter deal?” Phillips said.

“In bad economic times, more people eat at home, stay at home [and] create more trash which, with the proper education, has begun to create more recyclables [and] more potential revenue. . . . Why would we give away $3 million a year or more?”

Under fire to deliver suburban-style curbside recycling to 359,000 Chicago households without it, Daley chose Waste Management in late March to provide the service in four of six designated zones.

The two remaining zones would go to Metal Management and Brackenbox, the supplier of giant Dumpsters used to replace hired trucks.

The contract was subsequently put on hold after Local 1001 exercised its right to submit a competing bid that came in $20,000 a month higher than the $596,000 monthly fee proposed by private contractors

That shifted the final decision from Daley to new Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel said last week he had not made up his mind which way to go. An arbitrator is expected to rule next week.

Bid documents examined by the Chicago Sun-Times appear to support the union’s claims.

They show that private companies would be granted sweeping authority to declare “gross contamination” of recyclables, simply by slapping stickers on those blue carts and notifying City Hall within 24 hours. The city would then be compelled to pick up those contaminated carts, with no deduction to the vendor. The city would also supply the blue carts.

Private contractors also would be guaranteed an annual price increase of three percent. And they would be free to establish their own routes and schedules with recycling pickups continuing until 10 p.m. as well as on weekends and holidays.

The union says that stipulation would cause a “public service disaster” that would generate “massive amounts” of homeowner complaints.

Phillips has been lobbying aldermen to impose a $10 monthly fee for recycling pickups to raise $72 million — enough to bankroll the citywide switch to curbside recycling now stuck at 241,000 households.

He argued that a $10 user fee would be “cheap” compared to what private contractors would be forced to charge, particularly after the program is expanded by 10 percent in November with “no additional source of funding” to support it.

Last summer, aldermen from across the city demanded to know why curbside recycling had come to only one-third of Chicago households.

A few weeks later, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that at least 22,000 blue recycling carts — with a pricetag of $1 million — were stashed away in a Far South Side warehouse because City Hall bought them to make the citywide switch but ran out of money one-third of the way through.

That leaves 359,000 households in the lurch. Their only recourse is to bring their recyclables to drop-off boxes, an inconvenience for many homeowners.

Last Updated ( Monday, 23 May 2011 )