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June 20, 2018
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RP will extend contract with Recology despite rocky start

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
June 15, 2018

Correction:

 In this week’s Rohnert Park City Council article – “RP will extend contract with Recology despite rocky start,” The Voice reported that the five-year extension is mandated in Recology’s contract, however, this was incorrect. The city had the option to allow the contract to expire in 2020 if Recology did not meet performance requirements or demonstrate progress. The city council found that Recology’s improved performance over Rohnert Park Disposal justified a contract extension to 2025. It was also reported that Windsor and Santa Rosa had higher rates of 26 and 40 percent. This was a reference to the rates paid by residents, not the rate of diverting waste from the landfill. Windsor’s rates (charges to residents) are 26 percent higher than Rohnert Park’s rates for most sizes of garbage cans and 74 percent higher for the smallest size can of 20 gallons. Santa Rosa’s rates (charges to residents) are 40 percent higher than Rohnert Park’s rates for most sizes of garbage cans and 125 percent higher for the smallest size can of 20 gallons., Vice Mayor Joseph Callinan was referring to low charges to residents – not diversion rates - when he was discussing Rohnert Park’s preference for low rates.

The Rohnert Park City Council gave direction to city staff on Tuesday after a  5-0 vote, saying they will extend the city’s solid waste removal contract with Recology Sonoma Marin despite a rocky start to the waste removal services last winter.

The disposal companies’ contract is set to expire not until June of 2020, yet Recology has a five year extension mandated in their contract, meriting the need for a review of its performance and direction from city staff, all of whom were in favor of the five-year extension.  

Despite some initial service challenges, the environmentally friendly company is on the right foot in terms of proper recycling and composting.

Recology Sonoma Marin, which aims to reach a goal of zero waste, took over waste removal services in December of 2017 after they purchased Rohnert Park Disposal, which had been carrying out the city’s waste removal services for several years.

Recology was also appealing to the city because it aligned more with Rohnert Park’s goal of being more mindful when it comes to recycling waste and electronic goods, whereas Rohnert Park Disposal was not.

“Rohnert Park Disposal generally did not meet the agreement’s requirement to divert 50 percent of waste from the landfill to recycling or composting,” say the agenda item report written by Rohnert Park Assistant City Manager, Don Schwartz.

This standard is state mandated and RP Disposal also did not meet the agreement’s performance requirements in terms of adequate reports on operations.

And while it has had hiccups in the first few months of operations, such as mix-up of pick up days and various service complaints, the company has demonstrated improved performance, which made the contract renewal feasible.  

“They are certainly headed in the right direction, they are expanding services at city sites and their reporting that is required in the contract is getting better and their performance is certainly positive,” Schwartz said of the companies’ service.

Also their removal services’ diversion rate (the rate at which waste is diverted from landfills) for the first quarter was around 37 percent, which was above Rohnert Park Disposal Services’ rate of only 34 percent. Yet Windsor and Santa Rosa both have higher diversion rates, with Windsor having 26 percent higher rate than Rohnert Park and SR having a 40 percent higher rate.

Composting is a significant step in waste removal because it reuses waste which after broken down, can be used in fertilizer, mulch and seeds. However in a landfill waste simply sits and may take ages to decompose.

To improve their services Recology has added a commercial compost route to its operations, doubling the amount of compostable material they can divert from landfills. They also hope to add two more compost routes in the future.

They also plan on replacing all waste bins throughout Rohnert Park, including, the blue recycle bins, green compost bins and gray garbage bins. They’ve also heavily focused on public outreach and education to help encourage recycling and composting, including distributing newsletters and reaching out to commercial businesses and schools.

“While there have been some lapses during the start-up of operations, Recology has provided improved reports and responded quickly to requests from the city,” the agenda item report states.

Additionally, they had fewer service complaints than Rohnert Park Disposal did in the first few months with 41 fewer missed pickups.

Vice Mayor Joseph Callinan said of his careful support of the contract extension, “They did great on their first quarter and I can appreciate that, but… my concern is that we have to be covered (if the council is not happy with Recology’s performance). And I just want to make sure Recology understands that Rohnert Park has prided itself for years on being one of the lowest rate people in the county and I want to keep it that way.”

Mayor Pam Stafford also voiced her support for the extension, saying the council believes this is a good way to keep diversion rates low with a “reputable company.”