Residents in southern Marin County will see their waste collection fees increase this summer.

The Mill Valley City Council unanimously approved a rate increase of 8.26% from Mill Valley Refuse Service for its waste and recycling services at its June 3 meeting. The company cited the economy, increased costs and rising wages  as reasons for the hike. The change is effective July 1.

According to the Marin Independent Journal, the Mill Valley Refuse Service has contracted with the city since the 1950s, with the current 10-year rolling agreement beginning in January 1996. The waste collection utility handles residential garbage, recycling and green waste, commercial garbage and recycling, and construction debris services. It also does street sweeping, collects garbage and recycling downtown, and services the city’s corporation yard. Mill Valley is the largest customer of the service.

The utility also provides solid waste collection for other areas in southern Marin County, including Almonte, Alto, Belvedere, Corte Madera, Homestead, Mill Valley, Strawberry, Tiburon and various unincorporated areas. Rate increases will range from 6.5% to 8.3%.

“I think we all know that garbage is going up,” Mill Valley City Manager Todd Cusimano said. “These highs and lows are painful for all of us.”

Gene Della Zoppa, CEO of Mill Valley Refuse Service, said the rate increase is due to the current economy. Della Zoppa said for the years 2022 to 2024, the company had an average rate increase of 4.25%. “Other cities across the Unites States are also seeing increases related to solid waste collection,” Della Zoppa said.

Additionally, he said some of the biggest costs are labor, disposal costs, workers compensation, and insurance. A union contract negotiated last year resulted in a 15% hourly wage increase for drivers, and this year the drivers’ get a 5.5% increase.

Della Zoppa said the company’s waste management contract is also expected to increase by 2.9%, and recycling costs have gone from $27.95 per ton, to $91.67 per ton. The company hauls around roughly 13.8 million pounds of recycled material annually; one ton is 2,000 pounds. In total, the refuse center collects more than 86,000,000 pounds of garbage, recycling and compost.

“Part of what’s happening with respect to recycling commodity prices is the market is very, very volatile,” Della Zoppa said. “When you’re seeing a weak rate of return with respect to plastic, especially paper-like products, they are going to cost more to process them.”

Della Zoppa added that an additional cost includes laws like Senate Bill 1383, which requires organic waste facilities to measure and report organic waste material, and a state regulation requiring the company to transition three of their trucks to zero-emissions vehicles — something Della Zoppa said could costs between $500,000 to $1 million per vehicle — by 2029.

Mayor Urban Carmel suggested the company present a long-term outlook on what rate increases may look like in the future based on data and trends. Councilmember Caroline Joachim agreed and added that it would help customers be prepared.

“It is just hard to get hit with,” Councilwoman Caroline Joachim said.

The City Council’s approval included a requirement for the company to return to the council before the end of the year with an outline of what rate increases may be over the next few years.


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