Often overlooked

Features - Residential Hauling Contracts

What municipalities should know while writing and implementing residential solid waste hauling contracts.

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A lot of time and effort is invested into the development and implementation of recycling and solid waste hauling programs. During this period, a number of considerations take place that will set the stage for a program’s success. The following are some elements that are often overlooked that should be front and center during the planning process.

Share your vision

If a jurisdiction has set lofty recycling or zero waste goals or has an idea for a new circular economic model in the coming decade, this vision should be shared in the request for proposals (RFPs) and in the service contracts. This section does not have to be lengthy, but should include the bold goal and provide a fuller context for the scope of services described.

Sharing this vision can spark creativity and partnership with respondents and, eventually, with service providers. When all parts of a municipality’s collection and processing system are working toward the same outcome, the results are more advantageous for all factions of the system.

In addition to sharing a vision with potential contractors, the jurisdiction should also encourage creative partnerships in the proposal process. This can be done several ways: 1. Offer an optional, in-person prebid meeting so participants have the chance to connect with each other and potentially find partnership opportunities; 2. Consider awarding additional points in the selection process for response teams who show creative vision; and 3. Seek university or college departments that could spearhead innovation in the areas desired. There are often additional incentives and programs available in the collegiate setting.

Focus on organics

Organics is a prime target for program inclusion since it makes up more than 40 percent of what residential households set out at the curb.

If a jurisdiction does not have a yard waste program, it should consider adding an optional question regarding the price for this service addition, whether through drop-off or curbside collection. This information could then be shared with decision-makers to form the backbone of an organics diversion plan. It is also important to note that roll carts should be priced for the first yard waste collection.

Some jurisdictions start with yard waste as an optional add-on service. As in the case in Portland, Oregon, there could also be overall service changes considered to accommodate organics. Portland now has biweekly garbage and weekly recycling along with weekly organics collections.

If a jurisdiction does have a yard waste collection program, and organics is a focus of a recent solid waste management plan, look to request pricing for the addition of food waste and compostable paper into the yard waste stream. Implementation of this inclusion assumes there is local processing capacity. And, if not, consider procuring that separately or modifying a composting program if there is one in place. If there are yard waste bag/bundle set out or dropoff programs, add the line item to request yard waste cart service, as this is the most convenient, keeps away smells and rodents and offers the most success (tonnage wise) for organics collection.

Educating the masses

Residential hauling contracts and programs can also be improved by incorporating public relations tactics early. Stakeholder engagement is often discussed, but may be overlooked. Program development, however, may be the difference between success and failure.

The public relations element of a residential hauling program should be incorporated as early as possible and extend beyond the program’s release, with multiple iterations of outreach throughout the life of the program.

Looking at the details

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Flexibility in contracts is key when writing residential hauling contracts.

One of the ways flexibility is commonly incorporated is through the ability to change what is and is not accepted in the recycling program. Instead of writing what materials are expressly accepted for recycling into a hauling contract, the contract should refer to a list of materials issued by the solid waste director or an equivalent representative in a municipality.

This allows a county, town or city to be more responsive to recycling market forces such as drops in the value of glass and changes in material accepted for recycling. This also allows a jurisdiction to be more responsive to new waste management and collection technologies such as logistical improvements and new waste processing equipment.

Contracts should also be structured to allow for smaller regional firms to respond. Having short-term contracts hinders the ability of a smaller regional firm to finance new equipment, which may be preferred by the issuing agency. Having a term of at least seven years is preferable to open the doors for smaller firms.

Unnecessarily high limits for bonding insurance requirements can limit the ability of a small regional company to respond. Efforts should be made to review these requirements prior to issuance of a procurement with representatives of the smaller regional firms. Being sensitive to these factors can result in having more responses and allow for adequate protection as well.

Following the trend

Another way to increase flexibility in contracts is to incorporate responsiveness to trends in living arrangements, including the subdivision of single-family homes. Neighborhoods consisting primarily of single-family homes can now be subdividing into duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes. This change is accompanied by several challenges in terms of zoning, parking and waste management.

In this scenario, incorporating the ability to change the number of carts on the street can help the municipality.

When there are more carts on the street than there are in a database, for example, it can hurt the municipality or the contractor. If the contractor collects carts for which it cannot invoice the municipality, the contractor loses. If the contractor invoices the municipality for carts that aren’t being paid for by the residents, the municipality loses.

Crystal clear

Contract writers often focus on defining technical terms in a contract but sometimes overlook the legal terms. In the absence of a definition within the contract for a legal term, a generally accepted definition from courts in that state is most likely to be applied. Always ask for legal review from internal counsel, being sure to ask specifically for counsel to consider terms that should be defined.

Many older contracts, some of which may have been active for decades, are being updated with customer service standards in mind. The more specific these are, the better they will serve the contractor and the municipality.

One example is stipulating the level of field supervision required. Without proper field supervision, reaction speed to issues can be slowed and can interrupt the flow of work for haulers whose supervisors may be based farther away. When it comes to client perception and confidence, field supervisors can be asked to step in and intervene when a situation arises to function as a form of front-line customer service over and above the service provided by drivers and helpers.

Carpe diem

Seizing the opportunity to set a new course forward while writing and implementing hauling contracts is a worthwhile endeavor. It can feel overwhelming to tackle change, but when designing residential waste contracts, it’s important to think about big and small items that can benefit all parties involved.

Jennifer Porter, Kate Vasquez and Ashlea Smith are the senior project manager, project manager and marketing coordinator, respectively, for Gershman, Brickner and Bratton (GBB), McLean, Virginia. For more information on GBB, visit www.gbbinc.com.