Hillsborough trash pick-up could go from twice a week to just once

County officials say reducing collection days would save money. But what would that smell like?
Republic Services of Florida garbage trucks arrive at its Tampa headquarters. It is one of three companies that handle trash pick-ups in the county, which could go from twice-a-week to just once. [ LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]
Republic Services of Florida garbage trucks arrive at its Tampa headquarters. It is one of three companies that handle trash pick-ups in the county, which could go from twice-a-week to just once. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times]
Published July 15

TAMPA — Hillsborough County will soon sign a new contract with its garbage collection vendors and there could be some changes coming in how often residents’ garbage will get picked up:

It could go from twice a week down to once a week.

There’s a good financial reason to make that change, county officials said. But that deal doesn’t smell good to some residents.

The County Commission hopes to review a draft of the request for proposals in August, then the contractors will be selected in November and the new 7-year contracts will go into effect in September 2020.

The contract is worth a total of $188 million shared by three private companies: Republic Services of Florida, Waste Connections and Waste Management. The proposals include options for once-a-week pick up of residential garbage and the collection of bulky items, such as household furniture.

Why make a change? Going to once-a-week collection could lighten the burden on waste disposal companies and cut costs anywhere from 20 to 30 percent, said Hillsborough County solid waste director Kim Byer.

“It’s the same trash, the same volume,” she said. “It’s just condensed into one day.”

On the other hand, garbage would accumulate over a week instead of two or three days.

“You’d have overflowing bins and it would be an aesthetic disaster but also health and smell issue,” said Arbor Greene Homeowners Association president Scott Derby, whose neighborhood is in New Tampa.

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Picking up the trash in Hillsborough has been anything but a smooth process in recent years, according to a county report released this year. All three contractors experienced “significant service failures” in the last three years, the report said.

Growth is also an issue. The populations of eastern and southern Hillsborough have grown quickly, outpacing what the contracted collection companies can keep up with.

In particular, Republic Services has continually struggled to make timely collections of the garbage produced by the 108,000 homes it services. Earlier this year, those repeated failures led County Administrator Mike Merrill to issue a legal notice that the company had until Feb. 15 to fix its issues — or risk being fired.

Since then, Byer said Republic’s service has gotten better. But Derby, who is one of the residents affected, said he has not noticed a change and that crews still regularly miss trash pick-ups in his subdivision.

The county surveyed the community to gauge their opinions on trash service at a meeting with community leaders earlier this month. More public meetings on garbage collection will be held through July 25 and the survey will also be available online for residents to use through July 29.

So far, there have been over 1,550 survey responses, though Byer said no analysis has been done yet to reveal whether residents prefer that their trash continue to be picked up twice a week or if they’re in favor of once-a-week service.

In 2013, Hillsborough County adopted an automated trash pickup system and distributed specialized trash and recycling containers that could be picked up and emptied by a robotic arm attached to a truck.

Since then, collection and disposal fees have remained the same. However, this year the solid waste assessment rate is set to go by $5.36 to a new total of $102.89 per household next fiscal year. The waste collection fee, $131.43, would remain the same.

Contact Amanda Zhou at azhou@tampabay.com. Follow @amondozhou.

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