Trash. Its everywhere. Its one of the byproducts of societal progress. As more people gain wealth and social mobility, they inevitably end up consuming more goods. This consumption then leads to an increase in the amount of waste produced by the given population. The process of collecting and storing this garbage is one that is little noticed by the public, yet it involves so many different high-minded concepts. Concepts such as economics, business, and politics.
The people of San Francisco, CA got to learn all about how these three concepts influence the way in which their garbage is collected. Just last June, the city held a vote to introduce contract bidding for their waste collection services. Currently, there is only one company, Recology, which handles all of the city’s trash disposal needs. This includes residential collection, commercial collection, roll off dumpster rentals, handling & processing of recyclable materials, and transportation of these materials to producers.
The proposal that appeared on the June ballot would have changed the city’s method of awarding contracts for these various tasks. Instead of contracting with one company for all these different jobs, the city would have to open up these tasks to competitive bidding by a number of different waste management companies.
The proponents of this idea believed that contract bidding would decrease collection rates for San Francisco residents by forcing waste companies to compete on pricing. It would also have forced San Francisco’s dumpster rental companies and other waste collectors to develop more efficient methods of trash collection in order to win the city’s contracts.
Unfortunately for its backers, the proposal failed to acquire the approval of San Francisco’s voters. Those who supported it blamed the influence of Recology on drumming up support for its business during the election. While those who were against the proposal believed that Recology was already providing the best possible trash services and didn’t need to be changed.
In truth, Recology has had very few complaints from its customers. The defeat of the proposal by San Francisco’s own residents bears testament to that fact. But the point of the proposal was to open up competition for the city’s waste collection services in order to drive down prices. It is worth noting that every other city in the bay area, including Oakland and San Jose, have successfully adopted bidding.
What this story really shows is how trash collection can be a big business that involves a number of different factors. Politics, economics, and business all play a role in shaping how a city disposes of its trash. It may not make for exciting television, but it definitely affects every one of us.