Residents will soon see a slight bump in the cost of solid waste collection throughout Redwood City.
Changes include a $2 per month increase for regular, scheduled, basic collection of residential solid waste and recyclable materials for 20-gallon bins; a $1 per month increase for 32-gallon bins; and a 1.947% increase for unscheduled solid waste services. New rates will go into effect April 1.
The resolution to implement a rate increase was adopted during Monday night’s city council meeting by a unanimous vote, Council member Michael Smith absent.
Every year, the city is responsible for setting new rates for the collection of solid waste, including garbage, recycling, organics collection, disposal and processing. Fees go to Recology San Mateo County for disposal and processing, labor, fuel and power and other operating and maintenance work.
Financial aid is available on a first-come, first-serve basis through the Water and Sewer Rate Assistance Program to those who qualify.
According to a staff report, this year’s solid waste rate increase is the fifth since 2013.
Based on costs outlined in Recology’s annual Compensation Application, proposed solid waste rates were reviewed in November by the council’s Utilities Sub-Committee, which includes Vice Mayor Diana Reddy, Council member Diane Howard, and Council member Lissette Espinoza-Garnica.
In line with recent precedent, the Committee recommended “regular, modest increases in rates to address increased operating costs, rather than infrequent, sharp rate increases,” as described in the staff report Redwood City’s rates for both 20-gallon and 32-gallon bins (the most popular) are lower than the average costs in other, nearby communities, according to data from the city. By comparison, residents in North Fair Oaks currently pay $36.07 for collection of both 20-gallon and 30-35-gallon bins, while residents of East Palo Alto pay $50.62.
Residents received mailed notifications in January and were invited to attend two community outreach meetings since then. As of Monday’s hearing, the city had received 13 official protest letters disputing the proposed solid waste rate increases.
Bin contamination, fair rates and waste reduction were among the concerns raised by members of the public and the city council during the discussion.
Three residents spoke during the public comment, including Claire Felong, who runs the Zero Plastic Waste Now Facebook page.
Felong disapproved of the rate increases, which she criticized for putting the burden on consumers to pay for waste disposal, rather than on retailers for creating the waste in the first place.
“We have no ability to decrease the amount of packaging that we receive, especially from grocery stores, from Amazon,” she said. “I literally am mailing packaging back to CEOS because my rates are going up. I’m just incensed that I have no ability to control the amount of trash.”
Felong also wondered why the rates of smaller containers were increasing by more than the rates of large containers, adding that the owners of the smaller bins are “the ones that are actively working to have the least.”
Another member of the public, Chris Robell, agreed with Felong.
“The 20-gallon customers are going up 12%, the 32-gallon customers 3% and the 64- and 96-gallon customers have no increase whatsoever,” he said. “So if you’re a 96-gallon customer or a 64-gallon customer, and you’re seeing 0% increase, what is your incentive to recycle?”
During the council discussion, Public Works Services Superintendent Adrian Lee addressed these rate concerns, explaining that the fee per bin is proportional to the cost of labor.
Vice Mayor Reddy also spoke, giving some context for the differing fee increases.
“Historically, the city has been resistant to increase the charges to the people with the small bins, and so we’re sort of paying the price now for that resistance,” she said. “Even with these increases, it will not be really what we, or the city, is being charged for the sizes of those bins.”
On the issue of bin contamination, Recology San Mateo County General Manager Evan Boyd said the garbage collection service has several lines of defense, including outreach and education, tagging contaminated bins and conducting random inspections.
“The Bay is heads and tails above the rest in terms of education,” he added.
This fall, the city’s Public Works Department announced a study session on solid waste rates to outline rate increases for coming years. With the help of an outside consultant, the city intends to consider alternate rate structures to improve equity and meet other objectives.
At the same council meeting, members also held a study session to discuss updating existing Park Impact Fees and implementing new nonresidential fees, according to a staff report. No formal action was taken during the session.