There has been quite a bit of contention regarding the proposal of a single hauler trash company servicing the Borough of Lansdale. After Wednesday’s meeting, I went home and not being able to sleep, I began reading through the 168 pages of Specifications covering Residential Solid Waste and Recycling Collection for the Borough of Lansdale (hoping it would put me into a coma). Instead, I had an epiphany. I thought of how complex this whole process has become and how it represents the bureaucratization of so much in this country. The Borough has spent much time and money– approximately $40,000– to prepare the specifications, put them out to bid and then to review them followed by debates in committees and in Council, I thought of the alternative: me picking up the telephone and calling a trash removal company, asking them for their pricing coming to an agreement and presto! I have trash service. No bureaucracy, no lawyers, no engineers, no government, just me and the service provider. Simple.
The problem with additional layers of bureaucracy is that slowly, residents feel that their voice is lost and this is exemplified in this issue of whether or not to go to a single trash hauler. By inching towards a single hauler, the ones who stand to gain the most are the lawyers and engineers who write and analyze the contracts and the single hauler who gets the contract. As far as the benefit to the individual, what he or she gains is marginal. The proposal from J.P. Mascaro, the lowest responsible bidder, was $18.64 per month for once weekly pick up for two 65 gallon tote bins (which are smaller than the 95 gallon tote bins that most people have) for recycling and solid waste. This also includes once monthly yard waste and bulk items. Comparing quotes from other trash haulers, J.P. Mascaro is not a slam dunk. For example, Republic Services has offered $19 per month for twice weekly pick up and two bigger 95 gallon tote bins. There are minor differences between these two: Republic will charge for bulk item pick up, but the Borough already picks up my yard waste twice a year. So depending on how you look at it and what your circumstances are for trash removal, Republic Services might be a better deal but in the end pretty close.
As for the proponents of a single hauler, their arguments are primarily the negative impact on the roads and alleys by the increased number of trucks with multiple haulers and the environmental impact of pollution from multiple trucks. Unfortunately, these arguments are difficult to qualify. I have ridden my bicycle throughout town and looked at the alleys and roads that bisect them and some could use some repair but overall, they weren’t in bad shape. Additionally, the alleys are private property so their repairs would be up to the individual who would have to make the decision of which he or she valued more: the condition of the alleys or his or her ability to select a single hauler. Nevertheless, to assess a concrete dollar number on the impact of multiple trucks is nearly impossible.
Unfortunately, what seems like a good idea on the surface often unravels into a mess when the details begin to emerge. These are described well in the Reporter article attached here: http://www.thereporteronline.com/general-news/20171005/lansdale-committee-recommends-single-trash-hauler-full-council-could-vote-oct-18. And for more individual comments about the impact of a single trash hauler, please look at the Citizens for the Revitalization of Lansdale page on Facebook.
What is concrete and very much black and white is the following: with the adoption of a single hauler an elderly woman (her son takes care of her trash) who lives on West Mount Vernon Street will be forced to pay $223.68 per year for three years for a service that she doesn’t need. Or the family of six that needs twice weekly pick up with two 95 gallon tote bins will be forced to use two 65 gallon bins once a week. Or the residents that are simply happy with their current trash hauler but are now forced into a contract that they don’t want. These are real examples of the adverse effects of moving towards a single hauler, but more importantly how moving towards a single hauler diminishes the relationship between the consumer and the service or goods provider and limits our ability to choose freely.