San Mateo County communities to see solid waste collection rate hikes in 2014 

Rates for solid waste collection in Belmont, Foster City and the unincorporated areas of San Mateo County are scheduled to increase in the new year, according to the Recology waste management company.

Costs are set to rise in the new year due to changes in the company’s operating agreement with its employees, but General Manager Mario Puccinelli noted Recology’s operating expenses are increasing by a mere two-tenths of a percent. The new agreement with its staff includes provisions to index wages and benefits to the consumer price index, a common measure economists use to determine the cost of living.

Belmont’s solid waste rate is set to increase by 12.15 percent — the highest of the three areas — because the city has attempted to partition a large increase in service costs after 2011, according to Recology. Next year is expected to be the final year of substantial increases, Puccinelli said.

The rate for unincorporated parts of the county will increase by 4.5 percent, and Foster City’s rates will go up 2.9 percent. Both communities will see escalating rates in 2014 because their proportion of the total amount of waste collected has grown, according to Puccinelli. Such increases in consumption are likely the result of increased economic activity from large corporations such as Gilead and Visa, who are headquartered in those communities, he said.

The waste collection rates are not anticipated to increase substantially after 2014, largely because after three years of serving communities in the county, Recology believes it has learned how to address the area’s waste patterns and trends, Puccinelli said.

In the midst of the increases, Recology and Teamsters Local 350 — the union which represents the vast majority of the company’s employees — are currently engaged in contract discussions. Although the current contract has already expired, business continues to operate “as usual” because of the strong relationship between the parties, according to union representatives.

The union’s employees say they continue to work “on good faith” because both parties believe a settlement is attainable.

Local 350 and Recology declined to comment on the negotiations in detail.

Across each of the 12 communities Recology serves in the county, there was an overall trend where solid waste was diverted from the landfill to recycling and organics, the company said. About 2,500 short tons of solid waste was shifted from landfills to recycling plants and organics facilities, according to Recology documents obtained by the San Francisco Examiner. There was also a slight decrease in the total amount of waste disposed.

Overall in 2012, Recology disposed of 135,656 tons of waste — the majority of which was produced by commercial enterprises. Of that, residences contributed about 44,000 tons, the company said.

Since Recology started to collect waste — and data — in 2011, residential and commercial solid waste use continues to decline overall.

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