Neighborhoods in unincorporated Palm Beach County could see a change in their garbage pick-ups next year — to once per week from twice a week — a move officials acknowledge might not be popular among residents.
Other changes: Garbage haulers working five days a week instead of six and a switch to automated/semi-automated garbage trucks.
The changes are being proposed as a way to “soften” an increase in hauling rates that the SWA has seen roll across the state, said Willie Puz, SWA spokesman. Puz said if the SWA were to keep the same level of service, rates would be higher than with the automated/semi-automated collection service and the one day a week garbage pickup.
“We have the new contracts that are up for renewal and what we’ve seen with collection contracts around the state is that the rates are going up. So in working with the haulers who have said that they’re having a hard time finding drivers and they’re having a hard time retaining drivers, they offered this,” Puz said.
Palm Beach County commissioners sitting as the Solid Waste Authority board are expected to vote on the proposals at the Aug. 29 meeting as part of a new contract that runs Oct. 1, 2019 through Sept. 30, 2026. The proposed changes were presented this month to the commission by SWA staff, which gave the commission the option of having haulers work a six-day week with twice a week pick-ups or a five day work-week and one day pick-up.
After the commission votes on the terms, bid packages will be sent out to the hauling companies, Puz said.
Cities in Palm Beach County — such as Riviera Beach, Boynton Beach and Wellington — have already implemented automated/semi-automated collection. However, those municipalities still pick up residential garbage twice a week.
There isn’t a municipality in the county that has one day pickup, Puz said.
Commissioners are also looking at lessening the amount of yard debris allowed to be collected weekly.
The changes were presented at last week’s SWA meeting amid a heated discussion regarding a new set of standards aimed at increasing the number of solid waste contracts awarded to firms owned by women and minorities. The standards would require the haulers to share future contracts with firms owned by women and minorities and form a joint venture with them to service a specific portion of the county.
The haulers found fault with the standards, saying there aren’t enough women- and minority-owned firms that are certified by the county.
But they cheered the garbage pickup changes, saying it will improve neighborhood aesthetics and quality of life for both residents and employees.
“It just changes the whole outlook of the neighborhood,” said Joanne Stanley, municipal services manager with hauler Republic Services.
If the changes are approved, garbage, bulk, recycle and yard waste would all be picked up one day a week except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Residents would use a 96-gallon garbage container, which costs between $50 and $70, and the first would be given for free. The garbage trucks would be automated and semi-automated and the hauler employees would work five days a week.
Commissioner Steven Abrams, who represents neighborhoods from Boynton Beach to Boca Raton east of Florida’s Turnpike, expressed concern about his constituents’ response to the change in pick-up days.
Stanley said working five days a week will allow employees to have a two-day weekend and be with their family, and will relieve residents of hearing the garbage truck in the early hours on Saturday mornings.
Chris Schulle, division manager with Waste Pro, said the company is having a difficult time bringing in employees because of the six-day workweek.
Bryant Thornton, regional manager with Republic Services, said having automated trucks will improve safety and also diversify hires.
“This industry is probably the top five most dangerous industries in the nation,” he said.
Thornton said automated trucks will keep haulers inside the truck instead of outside where they can be hit by distracted drivers, lowering workers compensation claims. And automated trucks would make the job less “athlete driven” because the equipment — instead of a person — would do the work and load 15-20 tons per day.
Because of the type of labor the job requires now, only 23 of the company’s more than 300 residential drivers in the state are women, he said, and they are in the markets where the company has automated trucks.
Another potential dispute lies in the discussion of yard waste collection. Staff proposed allowing only three cubic yards of yard waste per week instead of six cubic yards.
“You all are killing me on this one,” said Mayor Melissa McKinlay, who represents western communities in the central part of the county. “This is one I simply could not support because such a huge portion of my district needs this service more than 3 cubic yards.”
Staff proposed a fee of $8 per cubic yard if a resident needs more than three cubic yards picked up. The commission also discussed keeping the six cubic yard limit in areas that need it and decreasing it to three in areas that don’t.
Staff writers Wayne Washington and Kristina Webb contributed to this story.