Universal Waste Systems is the designated trash hauler for NELA, where many small business owners are outraged over sharply higher trash collection bills.

Trash Complaints Pile Up in NELA

2018 Editions February Updates

First, the good news. Garbage is now being picked on schedule at apartment buildings in NELA managed by Mission Properties and at Galco’s Soda Pop Shop on York Blvd. in Highland Park. That’s an improvement from last November, when the Boulevard Sentinel first spoke with those companies about L.A.’s new trash collection system for commercial and multi-family properties.

But Teresa Fulper, the owner of Mission Properties, and John Nese, the owner of Galco’s, are still fuming over sharply higher trash-collection bills. They can’t lower their bills by choosing a different trash hauler, because under the new system, the City has given one hauler the exclusive right in any given area to pick up the garbage, including nonrecyclables and recyclables. Altogether, L.A. is now divided into 11 areas with one hauler apiece – and complaints about poor service and high costs have poured in.  In NELA, the hauler is Universal Waste Systems (UWS).

Ms. Fulper showed us the trash collection bill for a building she manages in Highland Park, dated Sept. 2017, before the new system took effect. At the time, the building used one large four-yard capacity trash container that was emptied once a week, for a monthly charge of $154.54. In November, under the new system, the monthly bill for once-a-week pickup was $499.01.

The higher bill is due to greater complexity and add-on fees. Under the new system, the apartment building received two large containers, a four-yard capacity bin for nonrecyclables plus a three-yard capacity bin for recyclables. In November, the monthly charge for emptying the nonrecyclable trash bin once a week was $232.51, nearly $80 more than under the old system. Haulers are not allowed to charge for emptying the recycling container under the new rules, but that’s cold comfort when the cost for emptying the nonrecyclable trash goes up by more than 50%.

And that’s not the end of it. Under the new system, extra charges on the monthly bill came to $216.50, including “distance charges” of $25 per container each week for moving the bins to the trash truck.

A representative from UWS met with Ms. Fulper and the building owner to try to figure out how to lower the bill. One idea that was floated was to replace the single, large recycling container with two smaller ones, so that tenants could  drag them → to the curb for pickup. Shifting the work onto the tenants would avoid the distance charge and thus reduce the bill by $108.25 a month. Even with that reduction, the bill would still be twice as much as under the old system.

John Nese, owner of Galco’s, paid $362.27 per month for three trash pickups a week under the old system. The same three-times-a-week service under the new system would cost him $596.12 a month. So, he has cut back to once a week, for $216.72 per month. In other words, his service has been cut by two-thirds, but his bill has been cut by less than half.

Mr. Nese continues to be outraged that he is not able to shop around for trash pickup service and that the City has effectively turned trash service into a monopoly.

According to L.A. Sanitation, the new trash system is needed to meet several new environmental laws passed by the State. But the costs have come as a shock, indicating that City officials didn’t clearly explain how expensive the changes would actually be.

As of January 1, the new trash pickup fees have  gone up by 3.05%, as permitted under the contracts between the City and the haulers.