By ELIZABETH HSING-HUEI CHOU
City News Service
Mayor Eric Garcetti today signed into law an ordinance that regulates waste-hauling companies and revamps the way trash is collected from businesses and apartment buildings.
When the "Zero Waste L.A." system begins in 2017, business, apartment and condominium building owners within each of 11 geographic zones will be served by a single trash hauler and receive three types of bins -- a blue one for recyclable items, a green bin for organic waste and a black container for trash -- as is already done at single-family homes.
The city's Bureau of Sanitation has long handled trash collection from single-family residences, but commercial and multi-unit residential property owners were permitted to hire any private waste hauling company.
Garcetti said he repeatedly heard from residents that they wanted the ability to recycle at apartment buildings or at offices.
"Well, now you can," he said.
The franchise program could affect as many as 45 private waste-hauling companies that would be required to bid for the opportunity to operate in the city. It will also force the companies to adhere to environmental and worker safety regulations imposed by the city.
Requests for bids from the companies are expected to be released in June, Garcetti said.
Backers of the new system say it will increase recycling and help the city meet a goal of diverting 90 percent of trash from landfills by 2025. It would also result in fewer truck trips and improve worker safety, supporters said.
Garcetti said the overhauled process will bring commercial trash hauling, which he said has "zero requirements" under city law, more in line with the city's residential model, noting that the recycling rate is "just 19 percent" at businesses and apartments.
Residential trash collection has resulted in more than 75 percent of waste being recycled, putting the city seven years ahead of a state requirement, and is "done with a fleet of clean trucks to clean up our air and a workforce that is well-paid and protected that can support its families," he said.
"But out there, on the streets, it was the wild, wild west," he said. "Those buildings in our city would contract with private companies that offered inconsistent rates, and paid their workers, many times, minimum wage. This meant that multiple trucks from multiple companies would often be on the same city block, beating up our roads and polluting our air, causing us a lot of traffic."
Opponents of the new system, however, have argued it will put smaller companies out of business and potentially drive up the cost of trash collection.
L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben said earlier this month the exclusive franchise system would "create a costly bureaucracy, raise trash collection rates as much as 40 percent, potentially shut down 140 small family owned businesses and eliminate thousands of high paying jobs."
Councilman Jose Huizar, who spearheaded the effort with Councilman Paul Koretz to create the system, said the mayor's signing of the ordinance follows "three years of analysis, debate, and numerous hearings" in council committees
He said he looks forward to implementation of a system "that will increase recycling, reduce truck pollution and ensure top-notch customer service for all Angelenos."