By Dale Martin
City Manager
Fernandina Beach
June 10, 2022

City Manager Dale Martin

Mr. Greg Huntington, Waste Management (WM) Government Affairs Manager, presented the annual report regarding municipal solid waste and recycling to the City Commission earlier this week. His presentation will be provided to local media and posted with this article on the City’s website and social media pages.

WM, and its successor, Advanced Disposal (acquired by WM two years ago), have served as the City’s solid waste and recycling contractor for approximately twenty years. The City has a franchise agreement with WM, making WM, with very few exceptions, the sole collector within the City limits (as opposed to residents and property owners in unincorporated Nassau County who may subscribe to any collection contractor). The current five-year contract with WM expires in January 2024.

The weekly services provided under the current contract include two solid waste collections, one recycling collection, and one bulk waste collection (large items that are not suitable for placement in the curbside carts). While the solid waste and recycling collection days vary, bulk waste is collected every Wednesday throughout the City. The residential cost for weekly WM services is approximately $20 per month. When the City’s fees for yard waste collection and administrative costs are added, the total residential cost is approximately $27 per month. In contrast, subscription services to the unincorporated areas, for lesser services, are about fifty percent higher.

Within the City, WM has 6,300 residential accounts. With the availability of four collections per residence per week, WM operators make over 1,200,000 “service calls” per year for residential collections. WM also has nearly 510 commercial accounts, including the entirety of downtown where service is provided every day (including Sunday).

The collection statistics shared by Mr. Huntington were interesting. In 2020, during which the effects of the pandemic were most severe, WM collected 6,800 tons of solid waste and 1,300 tons of recycling: the 8,121 tons represented the largest amount of waste ever collected in the City. In 2021 as the pandemic began to subside, collected tonnage diminished: 5,441 tons of solid waste and 1,573 tons of recycling (7,014 total tons). The projected amounts for 2022 continue to decrease: 4,956 tons of solid waste and 1,272 tons of recycling (6,228 total tons).

Although the effects of the pandemic with regard to waste production appear to be disappearing, the pandemic effects on business operations will have a marked impact for many years. Mr. Huntington highlighted a key operational note: during the pandemic, WM never suspended solid waste and recycling collections within the City. In contrast, those services were suspended (and in some cases have yet to be restored) in several other northeast Florida communities.

It is because of equipment availability that City staff is examining solid waste collection services nearly two years before the current contract expires. Based upon discussions with other communities and contractors, it is anticipated that it will be nearly a two-year lead time to obtain new trucks and other equipment such as dumpsters and carts. It is imperative that those acquisition challenges be addressed as soon as possible.

The cost of solid waste services, like nearly everything else due to near double-digit inflation, will undoubtedly increase. Mr. Huntington illustrated the increased costs of wages, fuel, steel, vehicles, and maintenance. As is the case with the City’s labor force, certain key skills (especially a Commercial Driver License certification) are in extremely high demand, making positions remain unfilled for extended periods of time.

The recycling market has nearly disintegrated. While recyclable waste had long customers internationally, the rising incidents of contamination have greatly reduced the value of recyclable waste. Mr. Huntington reported that the current cost of recycling processing is approximately $120 per ton, significantly more than the roughly $50 per ton of solid waste processing. Several communities in Florida have eliminated curbside recycling due to the rising cost of that service. If our community wishes to keep curbside recycling services, I expect the cost of that service will markedly contribute to the total monthly cost of residential waste collection.

In addition to Mr. Huntington’s presentation, he, on behalf of WM, requested permission to negotiate a five-year extension to the current contract, in part to secure pricing beginning in 2024 given the existing economic uncertainties.  The City Commission rejected the request for an extension and directed City staff to prepare a Request for Proposals for a new solid waste collection agreement (to be effective January 2024). In addition to the provisions of the current contract, several additional issues (resolved “informally” between City and WM staff) will require clarification: customer communication, customer support, billing responsibilities, downtown collection services, quarterly reporting, and other cooperative considerations.

Given the pressing need to complete a new contract to provide for adequate time to acquire new equipment, the Request for Proposals will likely be published by the end of this month. I expect that a proposed contract will be presented to the City Commission in October.

Please recognize that your household garbage and recycling costs will significantly increase due to the economic effects of the pandemic. How much those costs will rise will be after receiving proposals and determining the level of service to be provided to residents and businesses.

 

 

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Mary Ann Howat
Mary Ann Howat (@guest_65315)
5 months ago

Much of the solid waste is produced by companies and it’s brand packaging. I am highly annoyed with the light berry type boxes that cannot be recycled without special equipment. The worst for me are the disposable plastic bottles and also the millions of plastic bottle caps. Where are they ending up and when if ever do they biodegrade.

Nicholas Velvet
Nicholas Velvet (@guest_65316)
5 months ago

Yet another expansion of the FB Octopus of employees and equipment. “We can do it better”? Come on folks. How about ONCE per week garbage pickup and every other week recycling? i.e. 1/2 the services with a contract 1/2 the price. …….Better yet, once per week garbage pickup and no recycling pick up. Whom ever wants to “go green” goes to the transfer station with your crushed cans, etc. that can be centralized on island at Baley Road. Way Better yet……A REALLY radical concept All Citizens carry their own garbage to a transfer station! This is done in many rural communities across Amerika~~~has been done for a long time. Oh…….. and when you carry your very own garbage to the transfer station? It’s $3 per 13 gallon garbage bag, credit cards accepted!!!!!!. A really quick and effective wakeup call to cut down waste vs. the garbage cans used locally you can put half a house in!

Suggestions offered above Mr. City Manager are in lieu of just what will happen. Seems given the tenor of this article the decision has already been made. Jack up the taxes. Did any one say inflation.

DAVID LOTT
DAVID LOTT (@guest_65321)
5 months ago

Nicholas, I think you live in an idealistic world with some of your suggestions. Talk to some of the County waste management folks and ask about the problems they encounter since they have “voluntary” waste management services for residents. You will hear about residents dropping trash bags in vacant lots and commercial containers. One only needs to look at when the City had its recycle containers down by the marina and the frequency in which garbage was dumped in them contaminating the entire recycle bin. Once a week solid waste service has been looked at in the past but the savings were minimal. The same amount of garbage is generated so trucks fill up quicker and have to make just as many runs to the landfill. Plus you don’t want to drive down S. Fletcher past all the rentals with their fish and other garbage having baked in the sun for 6 previous day.

Mary Gravier Janicke
Mary Gravier Janicke (@guest_65340)
5 months ago
Reply to  DAVID LOTT

I agree, David. Even with the excellent sanitation service, we still pick up trash from sidewalks and vacant areas. Need to keep the same level of service

Mary Gravier Janicke
Mary Gravier Janicke (@guest_65338)
5 months ago

Your ideas are interesting and I once lived in an ex-urban community that used transfer system. It did not work well; the city moved to Advanced Not everyone has the energy, space, or resources to collect and move waste.

mike spino
mike spino (@guest_65322)
5 months ago

The City’s yard waste service is very well run and the best bargain in town. Keep up the good work!

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_65350)
5 months ago
Reply to  mike spino

Well said, Mike. It is very well run and the best bargain in town. The “claw truck” has helped many of us who live here.

Bill Fold
Bill Fold (@guest_65323)
5 months ago

“ Please recognize that your household garbage and recycling costs will significantly increase due to the economic effects of the pandemic.”
Would somebody care to explain what the “economic effects of the pandemic” have to do with the increased costs of garbage pickup and recycling?? The article clearly shows that garbage and recycling tonnage peaked at the height of the pandemic and has dramatically declined since. Obviously the pandemic is over, therefore less garbage is being generated as the statistics show.
Let’s just all agree it’s the current Idiot-In-Chief’s fault we are in this inflation mess and admit that until another conservative is in the White House and Congress is taken back by sensible people we will all be paying through the nose for everything!!! Just my 2 cents for what it’s worth.

Mary Gravier Janicke
Mary Gravier Janicke (@guest_65337)
5 months ago
Reply to  Bill Fold

Let’s agree that NEXTDOOR is a local platform. Keep it local and do what we can at home

The discussion topic circles around the cleanliness and health of our community, our houses- not the White House.

Mary

Robert S. Warner, Jr.
Robert S. Warner, Jr. (@guest_65360)
5 months ago
Reply to  Bill Fold

Sure.

Trudie Richards
Trudie Richards (@guest_65326)
5 months ago

I do not understand why we need such frequent garbage/recycling selection. It is quite realistic to have garbage collected one week, recycling the next. There are cities that manage just fine with that arrangement.
And since plastic is the single most difficult item to sell to the recycling market, why don’t our leaders insist on a reduction of plastic use at source? The plastics industry must be forced to reduce!

Mary Gravier Janicke
Mary Gravier Janicke (@guest_65339)
5 months ago

One of the reasons I like living here is because the area is so clean. This should be a continuing priority for our community.

Get the bids, but remember the goal. A few dollars each month are worth a healthy Fernandina.

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