- Opponents of the recycLA franchise system officially launched a new repeal campaign Jan. 18 outside of Los Angeles City Hall, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Their goal is to establish a non-exclusive franchise system, according to a press release from the group's website.
- The group will have to collect and submit upward of 64,000 signatures by April 25 to get this question on the November ballot. Lead organizer David Hernandez recognized this would be a challenge and said he would be working "seven days a week for the next four months."
- Proponents of recycLA, including the local Sierra Club chapter, attended the event in protest. As shown in a photo by the Times, some were holding handmade signs with questions such as "Why Are You Taking Away Access To Recycling?" and “Why Are You Taking Away My Right To Breathe Clean Air?"
The recycLA program has been experiencing a string of tough press lately following a Times report about 28,000 service complaints filed during the 2017 roll-out — and ongoing customer concerns over price increases. The seven recycLA service providers will be subject to financial penalties for service issues starting Feb. 1. That topic will be addressed at a Feb. 6 City Council committee hearing and a future Board of Public Works meeting.
A lack of clear customer data has become a common explanation for the service issues. Last week, Waste Management told Waste Dive it had encountered 25-30% more volume than anticipated and is pulling drivers from around the country to catch up. As for price increases, the city maintains that customers will see some relief once they complete waste assessments and maximize diversion. Though proponents of recycLA also recognize that higher prices may be the new reality in return for universal recycling access, expanded organics recovery and the hundreds of low-emissions vehicles now on the street.
While this program has been in the works for years, and contracts were formally approved in Dec. 2016, opponents didn't fully muster their strength until the roll-out was imminent. During a Nov. 27 interview, Hernandez said he'd already been trying to gather signatures for a 2017 ballot initiative but had trouble getting support and put the effort on hold when he heard about a lawsuit from the Apartment Owners Association of California (AOA).
That suit, filed in June 2017, claimed violation of California's Proposition 218 and unsuccessfully sought an injunction. AOA President Daniel Faller has continued to speak out against recycLA, including some particularly incendiary comments at a Dec. 1 Board of Public Works meeting. According to a subsequent conversation with one of the lead lawyers in that effort, and the recent press release description, those legal efforts are still ongoing.
Hernandez told Waste Dive in November that his aim wasn't to completely dismantle the recycLA system, but instead roll back rates to pre-increase levels, or at least force the city justify the new rates. At the time, his main complaint centered around a perceived lack of public engagement prior to the launch. Hernandez, a retiree and perennial political candidate, was optimistic about his chances for getting on the ballot while also working alongside the lawsuit. Voter turnout is expected to be higher for the congressional and gubernatorial races than 2017's local elections, and he said ongoing press had raised awareness significantly.
"There are some very angry, angry influential people out there in L.A.," said Hernandez. "Now the phones are ringing off the hook."