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City Adds Fee for Haulers

Sanitation: The council's action is an attempt to encourage recycling by private companies that collect trash from apartments and businesses.

June 27, 2002|MASSIE RITSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an attempt to encourage recycling, the Los Angeles City Council imposed a fee Wednesday on private firms that haul trash from apartment buildings and businesses to landfills.

The council decided that, for at least the next six months, the city will charge haulers 10% of what they charge their customers to dump trash in landfills. Haulers can reduce the amount they pay by sorting out recyclables beforehand, city officials said.

The city's Bureau of Sanitation estimates that the trash-collection fee could generate $10 million a year, which would be used to pay for programs to encourage recycling at apartments, restaurants and other businesses, said bureau director Judy Wilson.

"We'll do whatever works best to reduce tonnage," Wilson said. "That's our goal." The fee does not apply to the sanitation bureau itself, which collects trash and recyclables from single-family homes in Los Angeles.

Council members debated two ways to calculate the new fee. The Bureau of Sanitation favored the method ultimately chosen by the City Council, which is based on haulers' gross receipts from customers.

However, some haulers and environmentalists maintained that tying the fee to the trash's weight would better encourage recycling by making dumping in landfills more expensive.

"There needs to be an incentive to get people to recycle," said Kim Thompson, vice president of the North Valley Coalition--a group of residents who live near the San Fernando Valley's Sunshine Canyon landfill, where much of the city's trash is dumped.

Trash haulers, contractors who transport their own refuse and neighbors of landfills said the fee will do nothing to encourage recycling and will only go into the sanitation bureau's coffers.

The City Council asked the Bureau of Sanitation to examine how recycling and revenue would be affected by charging the private haulers based on how many tons they dump.

The bureau will also set annual goals for reducing trash sent to landfills.

Sanitation officials said they resisted calculating the fee based on trash weight because doing so would cost $2 million extra for staff to ensure that haulers were disposing of trash as they claimed, said bureau assistant director Barry Berggren.

"We definitely want to increase the amount of recycling that's going on," Berggren said.

"We do not want to spend an exorbitant amount of money trying to conduct an audit trail."

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