The city doesn't have much leverage to change businesses' practices, because its free trash pickup covers only the downtown area-everywhere else, commercial clients have to pay either the city or a private waste hauler. So it was a real challenge when city council told the solid waste staff to find a way to boost commercial recycling-without imposing any new taxes or fees.
Their proposed solution: leave collection to the private haulers-but make them contract with the city instead of individual businesses. They've requested proposals from two commercial haulers for a single citywide trash contract. The winning firm would get a monopoly on private trash collection. In exchange, the city would collect an annual fee-and the rates customers pay would be structured to encourage recycling.
"The ideological reality is that most businesses need economic incentive to recycle," explains solid waste coordinator Bryan Weinert. With competing firms "hopscotching all over the city" to serve scattered clients, "it's kind of the Wild West in some ways right now," Weinert says. "Doesn't it make sense intuitively that it would be far more cost effective and efficient to provide a single hauler to provide pickup to all of those locations?"