Haulers: High waste bills city’s fault | AspenTimes.com

Haulers: High waste bills city’s fault

Kimberly Nicoletti
Trash haulers are blaming a new city ordinance for higher rates. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

Customers may be in for a shock when they see their latest waste-hauling bills.Last quarter, Donna Rowlands paid $75.18 for Rocky Mountain Disposal to take away six cans of trash. This month, her bill was $401.25 for the same service. So she called the company to find out what happened.”What got me is they blamed it on the City Council,” Rowlands said. Aspen City Council passed an ordinance requiring haulers to include the cost of collecting recyclable materials in their base rate for garbage service and charge residential customers based on trash volume. The city hopes the ordinance boosts recycling among residents and businesses, though the law does not make recycling mandatory. The ordinance went into effect Nov. 25.

Companies must begin pricing at 32 gallons, then charge double that amount for 64 gallons, triple for 96 gallons, and so on. Haulers cannot charge extra for recycling, so people can put out as many recyclable items as they want.Rocky Mountain Disposal’s rate for 32 gallons was $84 a quarter last year, but since the ordinance passed, it decreased its base rate for 32 gallons to $63 a quarter. But now its charge to remove Rowlands’ six cans, or 192 gallons, is six times the base rate, or $378 plus other charges.”This trash company is using the ordinance as a reason to price-gouge,” Rowlands said.But Rocky Mountain Disposal owner Dave Sanders said the company has no choice on the rates because of the city ordinance. All three hauling companies that operate in the city – Rocky Mountain Disposal, Wally’s Waste Solutions and Waste Management – sent letters to customers highlighting the changes. Only one company’s letter – Wally’s Waste Solutions’ – broke down the prices by gallons.

Wally’s Waste Solutions owner Wally Graham explained to customers that his lowest price, for 32 gallons, is $50 a quarter. He said that means a 64-gallon service costs $100, a 96-gallon service costs $150, and so on. The ordinance didn’t affect his 96-gallon fee; he charged $150 last year, too. However, he maintained lower prices for customers who have been with him since he started his business three years ago. They are used to paying $70 to $80 a quarter for 96-gallon service, but now they’ll pay double.Not all haulers are forthcoming about how customers can save money by recycling.”I’ve run into all kinds of people saying, ‘[Haulers] told me my rate was going up a huge amount,'” said Lee Cassin, environmental health director.Cassin said haulers must notify customers of new rates as soon as their contracts renew, which for many is quarterly.

“We sent a letter provided by the city, and we were hoping the letter would spur people to call and say, ‘Hey, what’s our rate going to be?'” Sanders said. “It’s going to be a learning process by the customers.”The bottom line is since only one hauler proactively laid out its new fees, many customers must call to adjust their bills.Cassin suggests people shop around for the best price, consider cutting back on pickups and recycle in order to reduce the amount of garbage haulers charge to dispose.”It’s too early to tell if it’s going to work to reduce volume, but I think it will – they’ll be able to recycle more,” Graham said.City expands recycling effortThis spring, a new container at the Rio Grande Recycling Center will allow residents to deposit leaves for recycling. Last year, the city offered free composting bins to residents for the first time; it will do so again this year.For more information, call Sarah Laverty at 429-1798.Kimberly Nicoletti’s e-mail address is knicoletti@aspentimes.com

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