- Austin City Council Member Don Zimmerman raised the idea of privatizing waste collection services at a meeting of the Public Utilities Committee, but fellow legislators and city officials were not supportive.
- The city has never solicited bids for private collection. Zimmerman, known as a fiscal conservative, sees the discussion as a missed opportunity. According to a presentation at the committee meeting, Austin's monthly rate is $23.30 for a 64-gallon trash bin and a 96-gallon recycling bin. Customers must pay more to upgrade to a 96-gallon trash bin.
- Texas Disposal Systems and Progressive Waste Solutions have expressed initial interest in the discussion. The next step is for Zimmerman to get enough votes to bring the issue before a full meeting of the City Council.
Austin Resource Recovery, which currently handles city waste collection, has already signaled strong opposition to this idea. Director Bob Gedert said he saw no cause for the discussion, citing high customer service ratings and departmental diversity.
"We provide services that other cities don’t provide," Gedert said, as reported in Austin Monitor. "We take pride in our employees and pay drivers significantly higher than the living wage."
Union officials who represent city collection workers also opposed the idea, saying it would reduce accountability and possibly result in job loss. At a March meeting of the city's Zero Waste Commission, Gedert and union officials had similar thoughts on a proposed resolution to explore a public-private partnership for waste collection. At the time, Gedert estimated that privatization could displace more than 400 city employees.
While seen as a national leader in the zero waste movement, Austin's program has been experiencing some budget issues and has room for improvement. A new study showed that the city's diversion rate is 42%, below the 50% target for 2015.