Provo’s making a move toward running its own recycling service and changing from every-other-week collection to weekly.
The city’s four-year contract with Republic Services ends on July 31, and after researching all its options, the city discovered it could save about $1 million over seven years if it takes over, Provo public works director David Decker told the city council on Tuesday. The city will need to buy 12,000 new recycling cans (they’ll have a 10-year warranty and RFID tags for easy data collection), one new truck (it already has a spare sanitation truck that can switch to recycling) and hire two new drivers.
Though the city would realize cost savings with the change, residents would pay $1 more per month for the weekly service because the city would double the number of pickups. Decker said changing to weekly pickups is the best option because it will reduce residents’ confusion over pickup weeks. The program will still be opt-out.
Cost savings isn’t the only factor, though. The city has had problems with customer service because it has to refer complaints and questions to a third-party — Republic Services — and can’t control how its employees respond.
Karen Larsen, Provo’s customer service director, said when a Provo resident calls the city with a recycling question or complaint, they have to transfer the call to Republic Services. Often, no one answers the phone there, so the Provo rep can only give the customer a phone number to try again. The city never knows if the customer got the question answered or complaint resolved.
“It looks bad on us as well and I’m very uncomfortable with that,” she said.
Bryce Rolph, the city’s sanitation manager, said when Republic Services misses a can there’s nothing the city can do to force them to come back to pick it up. “There’s no repercussion.”
For the regular trash and green waste cans, Provo’s drivers are asked to pick up cans that have been knocked down and clean up garbage or green waste that’s spilled. “That’s something we do but the third party doesn’t.”
Part of the city’s responsibility is to use tax dollars wisely and give residents a good customer service experience, and this change would accomplish both, said Mayor John Curtis.
Councilwoman Kim Santiago said she was inclined to OK the change because it would save the city money, streamline processes and make the call center easier to manage.
Public Works officials will be back at a city council meeting on May 5 to ask for money to buy the new cans — a little more than $600,000. If the change is approved, the city would start collecting recycling on Aug. 1.