UPDATE: May 25, 2018: Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve proposed a moratorium on recycling fines and penalties issued to businesses that violate the city's exclusive contract with Waste Management, according to NBC News 4. The proposal, which suggests local businesses should be able to break the exclusivity contract to work with small haulers, comes two months after the city voted to approve a performance survey of Waste Management.
Council considering a moratorium on fines/penalties for businesses that violate the exclusive agreement with @WasteManagement. Duerr recommends lowering the fines to less than 10 dollars— Benjamin Margiott (@BenMargiott) May 23, 2018
Currently, businesses that work with recycling companies outside of Waste Management can face a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Council will discuss the proposed moratorium again on June 13, and urges Waste Management to help develop a solution in the meantime.
- The City Council of Reno, NV unanimously voted to approve a $15,000 survey of Waste Management's performance under the current franchise agreement after ongoing complaints, as reported by multiple local outlets.
- Per a city staff report, this will involve hiring a consultant to conduct an "independent, scientific and statistically valid customer survey" of both residential and commercial customers. Council members have also asked that this be used as an opportunity to assess customer education and service needs, as well as make comparisons to national best practices.
- This move was spurred in part by ongoing customer complaints about limited service and pricing options under the current franchise agreement. Dozens of businesses submitted comments to the council ahead of its March 28 vote. The city's remaining small service providers, such as Green Solutions Recycling, have also raised concerns about their ability to compete, according to KTVN.
Waste Management's current 16-year franchise agreement, which began in 2012, has been the subject of ongoing consternation among small haulers and businesses in Reno. In recent years this has led to unsuccessful antitrust lawsuits, an unsubstantiated ethics complaint, public pressure over a delayed facility opening and repeated attention from the council. Some Reno haulers, including Green Solutions, even joined an effort with Las Vegas counterparts to try and alter franchise regulations statewide in 2017.
While an audit was conducted in 2016, the Reno City Council had decided against a larger performance review until now. Members appear to have changed course after signs these complaints won't be going away, and further litigation could be possible.
According to a council presentation, this could be the first of multiple reviews conducted every five years into the contract's duration — as permitted by the contract. Both the city and Waste Management are expected "to cooperate on preparing a report that identifies the improvements and amendments to the agreement necessary to make improvements," and negotiate in good faith, but neither are bound to agree to those changes.
While the local details may differ, this latest news from Reno shares many of the same themes as franchise debates in other cities.
When customers have limited service provider choices, that may lead to greater angst about pricing and service levels. When smaller haulers are constrained in the amount of customers they can service, that leads to a feeling that cities may effectively be putting them out of business. When cities feel the potential benefits of more efficient collection, expanded recycling access and lucrative franchise fees are being outweighed by ongoing complaints they may move to alter the system.