UPDATE: Independent haulers wary of Springfield, MO franchise proposal

UPDATE: During an April 19 meeting to address a new study that recommended potentially overhauling Springfield, MO's waste collection system, independent haulers were wary of change and in some cases directly opposed to it, as reported by the News-Leader.

Multiple owners said they wanted the current system to stay the same, expressing concerns over the cost of potential franchise fees or the challenge of competing for districts with national companies. Though one owner said he would be willing to pay a franchise fee if it meant not having to compete for districts. Any decision is multiple months away and all of the haulers said they want to discuss the plan with local council members soon.

As noted by one owner, it's also clear that the city has a large financial stake in the outcome as well. Tip fees at Springfield's municipal landfill comprise 85% of the funding for their solid waste programs, including recycling, yard waste and household hazardous waste. Republic Services and WCA Waste Corporation — the city's two largest haulers — currently have disposal contracts with the city that include tonnage requirements. These contracts expire in 2019 and the city could lose two-thirds of its regular tonnage if they aren't renewed. Figuring out whether these two companies can expand or at least maintain their current market share will likely be a key part of the conversation about changing Springfield's collection system.

Dive Brief:

  • According to a new study conducted by Burns & McDonnell, residents in Springfield, MO could be paying less for service under an "optimized" refuse collection program instead of the current open market system, as reported by KSMU. Refuse collection currently costs households between $10-16 per month, but could potentially be reduced to $9-10 per month or $13 when curbside recycling is included. Accurate figures weren't available to compare current recycling costs.
  • Information on pricing and service preferences was gathered from 700 phone interviews, 2,000 online or paper surveys and discussions with private haulers, city officials and community groups. Residents identified cost as their top priority for refuse service and convenience as their top priority for recycling service. The study concluded they would likely support any system that offered these benefits.
  • The study recommended three potential approaches that the Springfield City Council will now consider for splitting up collection services across 55,000 households. Options include a city-managed system with consistent pricing that would allow haulers to maintain their current market shares; a franchise system with three or four collection zones; and a non-exclusive franchise system.

Dive Insight:

Springfield announced this study last summer for many of the same reasons other cities have considered similar approaches — pricing, efficiency and truck traffic. Based on the study's estimates, residents will generate close to 66,000 tons of refuse next year with that number growing to 70,000 by 2024 if population increases continue as projected. Currently, many of these residents' carts aren't full when collected and only about 50% of them participate in either curbside or drop-off recycling. 

Figuring out how to address this situation while keeping prices competitive and honoring the city's goal of protecting existing haulers as much as possible will be complicated. The study found 13 licensed haulers were collecting material in the city using a variety of different vehicles, with Republic Services and WCA handling the majority of it over the past two years. Whether haulers will band together or individual companies will come out in support of the system that would be in their best interest remains to be seen.

Efforts among St. Paul's haulers to agree on the terms of an organized collection system have been delayed by a lack of agreement on key points and some see the potential for a similar situation happening in New York as the city works toward establishing its own franchise zone system. First, Springfield's City Council will take up these options in what could be a lengthy process of its own. The study recommends selecting a system by August to allow for one year of planning and eight months of transition before full implementation in April 2019.

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Filed Under: Collections & Transfer Regulation
Top image credit: Depositphotos