Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Amazing Waste of St. Louis County

The following are excerpts from a very interesting article from "St. Louis Magazine" June 2008. You may want to skip the sections below and go direct to the entire article on the web site at:


Trash has always been an ugly nuisance to be left at the curb and dealt with by someone else, but a hot mess of controversy in the county has thrown it right back in everyone's face. And what a crazy, complex, fascinating mess it is.

Given the subject matter, "a mess" would seem like the most literary way to describe the state of trash hauling in St. Louis County, but then again, it wouldn't really be accurate. "An overly complex and multilayered system of public and private interests" might be more appropriate.

The county does not provide trash service of any kind. Its Solid Waste Managment Program, which falls under the purview of the Department of Public Health, has fewer than 10 employees, who spend most of their time conducting random compliance checks of trash haulers' trucks, inspecting the two active landfills and four transfer stations in the county and responding to your complaints about the guy next door whose idea of "lawn ornaments" more closely resembles household trash to anyone with a less creative interpretation of the term.

Because the county has no municipal trash system in place, that means it's up to its 91 municipalities to find a way to dispose of their own trash. Five provide trash-hauling service through their public works departments (Brentwood, Kirkwood, Normandy, University City and Valley Park), leaving 86 municipalities for private haulers to fight over. As of April, 75 of the remaining cities, villages and townships had contracts with private haulers to dispose of residential waste within their borders.

In some cities, like Frontenac, which contracts with Veolia Environmental Services, trash pickup is provided "free of charge"; "free," of course, being a relative term when city taxes are involved. In others, like Overland, residents pay Allied Waste directly, $53.88 every quarter.

Residents in the 11 remaining municipalities (Bellerive, Country Life Acres, Florissant, Huntleigh, Kinloch, Ladue, Riverview, Sunset Hills, Town & Country, Wellston and Westwood) can choose their hauler. And they've got plenty to choose from: 22 private haulers have a license to work inside the county.Until this spring, service levels varied from one municipality to the next: Some got once-a-week pickups for trash, recycling and yard waste. Others got twice-a-week trash pickup, once-a-week recycling and yard waste collec­tion if they wanted to pay extra. Some had trash and yard waste service but had to take any recyclables to their local recycling center.

Bryan Barcom at American Eagle Waste does think that any legislation that could ultimately put him out of business is, at the very least, unconstitutional. The bids for the first district were opened in late March, and the low bidder was Veolia Environmental Services, the waste-management division of an international company that operates everything from water-treatment plants to public transportation systems. Its bid for District 3 was $11.60 per month. Barcom says he's barely paying the bills by charging his South County customers $18 a month. "I can't bid at $11.60 and be profitable," he says. "It's not even an option to do that."

"We're going to make our best effort to make this thing work," he says. "The county enforces this great recycling program, and then they take a page out in the Suburban Journal that says, 'If you don't want this recycling cart, call this number, and we'll come and pick it up.' Why not take a full-page ad out and say, 'Please utilize this container to the best of your ability, because you will be charged for this service, whether you use it or not'?" He shakes his head. "It seems like they do everything ass-backwards."

Read the entire article at:

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:40 PM

    Great article. Tells the County trash fiasco from a different perspective.