Commercial districting discussions appear to reach impasse in St. Paul, MN

Dive Brief:

  • The St. Paul, MN City Council has voted unanimously to organize a committee of city officials to assess next steps for establishing an organized collection system after negotiations with local haulers appear to have stalled, as reported by the Pioneer Press. The city's residential collections are currently handled through an open market system.
  • Since August 2016, the city's 15 licensed haulers have attended nearly a dozen meetings with city officials and submitted three proposals for how an organized collection system could work. While the haulers are open to limiting collections to one company per block, they have yet to reach consensus on other areas such as pricing, the establishment of a legal entity to represent all 15 of them and the acceptance of a labor peace agreement.
  • Haulers are open to abiding by the city's living wage ordinance, but the idea of organizing has been more complicated. Some haulers have said that their workers aren't interested in unionizing and are resistant to allowing labor organizers to contact them, as reported by MPR News.

Dive Insight:

Like other cities that have explored or pursued an organized collection system, St. Paul hopes to increase diversion rates and expand opportunities to collect other categories such as organics or appliances. After releasing the results of a resident survey showing interest in a new system last summer, the city began working with haulers to discuss details. While similar systems can be found elsewhere in Minnesota the possibility of doing this in the state's second-largest city has raised many questions

The process of establishing a larger organized collection system in Los Angeles took more than six years and New York is on a similar path that is projected to take at least that long. The role of labor unions in New York's commercial waste industry has been the subject of much debate, and workers at the Sims Municipal Recycling facility recently voted to unionize, but so far no details have been finalized on how this might play into a new collection system.

The fact that haulers have an opportunity to help organize the collection system in St. Paul puts them in a unique position, but the city's decision to begin exploring other options also shows that their window of opportunity may eventually close. City officials haven't ruled out taking control of the system and putting out a request for proposals to bid on collection rights to certain districts. Now, the haulers must decide whether they're willing to make the requested concessions for the opportunity to remain more involved in the process or take their chances with bidding on contracts on the city's terms.

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Filed Under: Collections & Transfer Recycling Regulation
Top image credit: Cliff1066