Recycling fees bump upDec 02, 2022 01:19PM ● By Zak Sonntag
By Zak Sonntag | [email protected]
Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District is slated to increase its fee rates on service members, including most households in Holladay, by an additional $2.50 per home per month, bringing the annual fee from $204 to $234.
The additional revenue is meant to cover increased costs of maintenance, fuel and disposal fees, with a big chunk to be used to boost wages to be market competitive.
The district hopes that by lifting salaries it can attract new drivers specifically, which has proven difficult in the last half decade with a tightening labor market that led to a nationwide driver shortage beginning in 2019.
“This isn't just us. Salt Lake City struggles to get their drivers for garbage and recycling collection, and Draper, and the private haulers (like) Ace and Republic. We're all struggling and competing with construction markets, long haul drivers. You name it,” said Pam Roberts, general manager of Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District, who explained that CDL drivers are especially hard to come by.
“We're all competing with one another to try to keep up and offer a good salary and benefit package that we can attract and retain them,” Roberts said.
The district is currently six drivers short of its 62 driver allocation, which puts extra stress on its CDL drivers to meet client needs through overtime work.
In an attempt to attract and retain drivers, the district hired compensation consultants to conduct salary market analysis in 2019 and again in 2022. Roberts says the fee increase will help the district offer more market competitive salaries and rebuild its team.
Another big tranche of the new revenue will be used to ensure a robust truck fleet. Currently, the district has 56 sideload trucks—the familiar trash collectors seen each week on neighborhood streets hook-shooting recyclables into its trailer—whose cost has jumped by 30% in the last year, bringing the total for a new sideloader to $425,000.
The trucks have a five-year life expectancy, and the district budgets for a replacement schedule to acquire eight new trucks a year. Although Roberts says that new trucks are not always available, and that’s compelled the district to push the life expectancy of some of its sideloaders beyond the five-year standard.
The fleet is comprised of trucks that run on Compressed Natural Gas technology (CNG). And despite the high price tag, Roberts says the trucks are worth the expense because CNG fuel is half the cost of standard diesel.
“A CNG truck is $100 a day for just the fueling, and a diesel truck is more like $200 a day. So you can see there's some savings there,” Roberts said, explaining that while diesel trucks are cheaper to buy, nonetheless “we recoup that extra cost within the first three years by the gas savings.”
The district burns a minimum of 500,000 gallons of fuel per year. With the cost of diesel fuel projected to average $4 a gallon over 2023, and CNG at $2 a gallon, the district is able to save one million in fuel costs.
In addition to a tight labor market, poor recycling habits may impact expenses as well by slowing down recycling production and increasing the cost of processing. For instance, patrons commonly put plastic grocery bags and thin plastic into the recycling bin. However, the material is not recyclable and often inhibits the machine processing of other materials.
“That type of plastic binds up in the machinery and it’s a nightmare for them and stops the whole process,” said Paul Korth, CFO of Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District, during a November presentation to the Holladay City Council.
Holladay Councilmember Dan Gibbons, who represents the city on the district’s board, expressed frustration with the level of public awareness about recycling standards.
“The value of the recyclables vary depending on the contamination rate in the recycling bin. And in the district we have a pretty shockingly high contamination rate with people putting pizza boxes and stuff that’s been fouled by food in the recycling bin, or plastic bags, and that makes it worthless on the commodities market,” Gibbons said.
Other cost increases
In addition to the fee increase for basic services, the district is also increasing surcharges for trailer rentals, can replacement and new user start-up cost.
Start-up subscriptions are going up by $10 from $60 to $70 in order to cover the full cost of new bins. And the district’s popular bulk waste trailer service is increasing from $175 to $190 for a standard four-day rental. Similar green waste trailer rentals will increase from $45 to $55.
One of the anticipated expenses are new sideload trucks, which have been challenging to acquire and seen a jump in cost by 30% in the last year to $425,000 per truck, according to Korth.
The increase is set to begin Jan. 1, 2023, and property owners can expect to see the change in the first quarter bill issued in April.