Tuesday, April 08, 2008

$10 Million And Counting: St. Louis County’s Trash Program

Estimates for the amount of money being spent on St. Louis County’s trash program are now in the $10 million range . . . and growing. The County Council approved a trash and recycling program in December 2006, however, 16 months later the program is still not in operation. The program continues to be a moving target with procedures, rules and start-up dates changing every month or two.

The last known start date was April 1, 2008, however, a pilot program was recently announced for trash District 3 to start July 1. At the same time, County officials say they will award contracts for the other seven districts in May, well before the “pilot” is completed. Observers are questioning if the “pilot” is really a “pilot” or if a contract has already been finalized for this district. The “pilot” hauler is Veolia.

As overall expenses continue to mount, the County Council and County officials continue to ignore the pleas and advice of attorneys, state legislators, trash company officials, subdivision trustees, citizens and others to halt the program until all problems can be addressed.

Expenses for the program fall into a number of categories. More than 100,000 recycling bins have been distributed throughout St. Louis County. At a cost estimated at around $40 each, the total cost is over $4 million. Thousand of the bins are not wanted by residents and are being returned to the County.

Some trash companies have increased their staff just to handle administrative functions such as answering the telephone to provide information to their customers. Many have purchased additional trucks to handle the recycling services that are yet to start.

Tens of thousands of man hours have been spent focused on the trash and recycling program. County officials and the County Council have spent countless hours debating the value of the program. Trash haulers have been training and adding staff and purchasing necessary equipment.

Countless meetings have been held by the county and subdivision associations. New organizations have been formed to oppose the program while others have been formed to track the news and information on the legislation and growing problems

State representatives have prepared legislation to cancel the program and are now spending state funds for their time and materials.

Bryan Barcom, owner of American Eagle haulers, urged the county to delay bidding for seven remaining trash collection districts until officials see how the first one works out. Barcom questioned the validity of the bid and the evaluation process of the county in selecting Veolia.

Barcom also questioned the competency of Veolia which was recently awarded the bid for trash hauling services for Trash District No. 3 located in the 2nd Council District. He noted that Veolia had lost trash hauling contracts with three local municipalities – Shrewsbury, Des Peres and Wildwood. He expressed the hardship this would place on independent companies to survive in this market with regard to the acceptance of the $11.60 bid from Veolia.

Mr. Barcom asked that the County Council not move forward with awarding any additional bids for trash hauling. He also questioned the lack of information available in the community to educate the residents concerning the Waste Management Code recycling requirement. It’s not uncommon to hear a county resident say if they don’t like the service provided, they will change to another carrier. Unfortunately, they will not be allowed to do so per the County regulation.

Barcom read a statement from Mayor Lowery, Mayor of the City of Florissant, with regard to the City of Florissant’s position on this matter. The Mayor has advised residents of Florissant not to pay any fees for recycling charges. He said the citizens of Florissant have been calling their city hall to complain about the trash hauling and recycling fees which were being mandated by St. Louis County.

Barcom related that he is still waiting for information from the Health Department regarding one of his three (3) questions he posed to the Health Department two weeks ago at the March 18, 2008 County Council Meeting. The unresponsiveness of the county on important questions being asked by trash haulers and subdivision trustees appears is widespread. This is NOT an insolated incident.

Doug Smith, a trustee in a Sappington area subdivision, says he has been waiting for a response on another matter regarding salaries of St. Louis County Police personnel. He directed a letter to County Executive Dooley on March 19 on this matter and specifically requested some type of a response. He’s heard nothing as of April 8.

Celeste Witzel expressed her concern to the Council at their April 1 meeting regarding the impact the trash districting will have on the independent trash haulers. She was surprised that the County Council has set up a program to force companies out of business.

Kurt Witzel, of Oakville in South County, inquired if there is a way that questions posed to the County Council could be answered in a public way, suggesting the website as a mechanism for responses.

He also questioned if there was a computer chip contained in the trash bins for tracking purposes. Dr. Gunn of St. Louis County responded that there is a barcode located on the trash containers for the Department of Health’s record keeping purposes. Unfortunately, a check of the recycle bins does not reflect the commonly used bar code but a computer chip device that can be used for tracking and identification.

The major problem with the County’s trash program is not the mandatory recycling or the increased fees to pay for the service or the minimum levels of service, but the forced used of certain trash haulers through use of trash districts. It fosters a move producing a monopoly. Residents should be allowed to select their trash hauler of choice and let the market determine the costs for services. Right now, St. Louis County is paying tens of thousands of dollars in man hours every month - with no end in sight.

Ten Million Dollars (and counting) is a lot for a program that’s not wanted by the majority of county citizens.


  1. Anonymous3:28 PM

    Thanks for spending our Money so wisely. We appreciate it. I guess the county really does need the over inflated property taxes to pay for services like this.

    Way to go, St. Louis County.

  2. Anonymous7:27 PM

    The City of Bellefontaine Neighbors has had a program similar to this in place for about 12 years. It was done to reduce the waste going into landfills as mandated by state and federal laws. It sounds like a noble thing to do, and we all need to help, but...

    I still have a lot of little old ladies and others that have to pay for recycling and yard waste but do not use it. In many cases, lawn care people take away clippings and twigs and recycling is limited to a journal, small milk jug and tv dinner tray.

    I estimate that less than 25% of our residents use the recycling service, but still pay for it.

    We had a lot of complaints in the beginning, but that is long over. It took a lot of effort in our little city and I wish the County the best of luck getting this up and going.

  3. Anonymous8:04 PM


    Would you please quote your source (or sources) for the 10 million dollar cost.


  4. Anonymous8:50 PM

    We are in South County, unincorporated. I used to take my recycling down to Reavis Barracks and I-55,

    then I PAID for recycling service through Waste Management. It was great at first then started to

    decline, first it was changed from weekly to bi-weekly, then they just stopped picking it up. I would

    call, they would ask if we could wait next time and offered a free month (we have 6 free months of unreliable and poor service). Then the County started
    this new program. I was excited, then it got even worse, trash and recycling still stand on my lawn, but today I canceled my trash service because they bypass my house every week (I have video of this), we call to complain, nothing is done about it. It time to start composting!