UPDATE: Jean Stothert, Omaha's mayor, is asking for public opinion about the city-run compost product, yard waste services and other topics, as reported by the Omaha-World Herald. The mayor’s website links to a survey where residents can answer questions about how much they support different waste management programs in the city. Warple, an Omaha-based tech company, is running the survey for free on a test basis.
Omaha officials are still in the process of developing a request for bids for its 2020 solid waste contract.
- The Omaha City Council voted unanimously on Oct. 17 to pay SCS Engineers an estimated $99,000 to work with city officials to develop a request for bids for a waste hauling contract that would affect around 140,000 households, as reported by the Omaha World-Herald.
- While it will be Mayor Jean Stothert's administration that puts out the request for bids, the council will have to approve any contract. The new arrangement is expected to last 10 years and cost over $100 million, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Omaha's current contract with Waste Management is set to expire in 2020.
- Stothert said that she wants automated CNG-powered collection trucks and covered, 96-gallon carts as part of the new contract. Stothert has in the past said she wants yard waste and trash to be collected together, rather than collected separately for composting. Some council members have said they won't support a contract that doesn't include separate yard waste collection and the option for customers to choose smaller carts.
Based on a pilot program in Omaha, where 2,500 homes were given two 96-gallon carts — one for recycling and one for solid waste — Stothert may get her wish for automated collection in the city. According to reports, recycling increased and the carts were "overwhelmingly popular" during the pilot. City officials have repeatedly said that public input would be an important factor in awarding the new contract.
Additionally, a study commissioned by city officials showed that co-collecting yard waste was cheaper and greener because it required fewer trucks on the road. Omaha started co-collecting yard waste after complaints of service delays when yard waste was collected separately, though that was intended to be a stopgap measure. Plans to restart separate collection of yard waste were delayed in June this year because of a driver shortage in the city — and Omaha isn't alone in facing that shortage. While federal action and technological innovations may start to close the gap between the number of drivers and the number of needed drivers, the issue won't be solved overnight.
The potential evolution toward automated CNG vehicles and larger recycling carts in Nebraska's largest city, combined with competing interests from city officials, will make Omaha's bidding process an interesting one to watch. The city's goal is to begin soliciting bids next year, and potentially begin preparing for changes to the system in 2019, ahead of the current contract's 2020 expiration date.