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Los Angeles' trash and recycling policies for apartments debated

As city leaders contemplate changing the system for collection services that serve large multi-unit buildings, they hear from environmental activists, truck-weary residents and garbage companies.

August 13, 2011|By Mary MacVean, Los Angeles Times

There are many signs, advocates for a new system said, that the current one is broken. In the same neighborhood, one customer might pay $100 and another could pay $400 for essentially the same service, Good said. Meanwhile, the landfills are filling up, he said.

"Folks don't really know what happens with their trash," Good said. Workers at collection facilities who sort recyclables from apartment building trash, he said, are "dealing with needles to carcasses to everything else."

Not surprising, but the haulers see the situation with a different perspective.

"The city of Los Angeles and the job on the commercial sector is second to none in the country," said Ron Saldana, executive director of the trade group Los Angeles County Disposal Assn.

"We are all working toward the same thing. We are all working toward a cleaner environment," Saldana said. "We don't believe you have to put 135 companies out of business to create some green jobs."

Why recycling in Los Angeles is so confusing
Daniel Agajanian, the founder and president of Direct Disposal, said the current system gives customers the chance to choose the company that best suits their recycling needs.

"People don't like to be told whom to use. We all compete," Agajanian said. "To limit haulers would be a mistake for the city of Los Angeles."

Some of his colleagues cited examples to show that competition among haulers works: one that responded to a client's need for a pickup on a New Year's Eve, another whose customers have his home telephone numbers, others who work long hours to keep their businesses going.

Despite exclusive-system proponents' projections of a fee decrease, Jim Clarke, the executive director of the Apartment Assn. of Greater Los Angeles, said such a change probably would cause fees to rise.

"Awarding contracts to a few companies will make it hard to encourage competition," he said. Landlords believe they can negotiate better contracts on their own.

He also said it's harder to get apartment residents to adhere to a recycling routine.

"It's very difficult to condition our tenants," he said. "You can't mandate them to split up their trash in two cans in their units."

The association, Clarke said, encourages its members to set up recycling programs and to educate tenants on how and why to separate their trash. But in some buildings, particularly small garden-style apartments, there is no room for blue bins, he said.

With the sides as far apart as they are, it's perhaps a good thing that — as the stakeholders have been told at the hearings — there's a long way to go before a new plan is in place.

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