Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Paying For Free Leaf Pickup

Jo Gro, our city’s composting operation, will soon be under the management of Republic Waste Services, minus the sewage bio solids that it was originally started to make use of.  Those will be hauled by Republic to Dry Creek Landfill to make methane for electricity generation.  The city will be running Jo Gro long enough to decompose the rest of their bio solids, and then lease the operation to Republic, who will run it as a regular composting service.

A pile of leaf bags on the street

 One might expect “free” leaf pickup to go away, since it was instituted to provide material for Jo Gro to help decompose those bio solids.  But leaves will be picked up by Republic and Southern Oregon Sanitation from the curb for free as part of their franchise agreements with the City, as they always have.  The only difference is that they will be free to take them to any DEQ-approved composter, to seek the best price for dumping. 
Such “free” leaf hauling was part of the subsidy for Jo Gro, but wasn’t counted as part of it, because it was being paid for, not by the city, but by the residents as part of the cost of our waste hauling service.  Jo Gro will apparently continue to be subsidized by hauling leaves for free, but Republic will be the single composter to benefit, while Southern Oregon Compost will have to compete without such a subsidy, against a composter who doesn’t use biosolids anymore.
The city does not like to compete with private business, and presumably does not want their monopoly franchisees to compete unfairly with other businesses as well.  There are other small businessmen, gardeners and landscape maintainers, who would haul yard waste for residents for a small fee, as well as contractors like Aspire, whom the waste services use to haul leaves and trimmings now.  Republic even has its own yard waste service that more people would buy if the free service stopped.

Maple and plum leaves spread as mulch on the border

Those who haul their own trash to the transfer station don’t pay for free leaf pickup, but they get their leaves picked up if they put them on the curb.  Everyone who pays for regular trash service must pay for leaf pickup as well, whether they use it or not.  This gardener uses leaves for mulch and picks up leaves from the curb for her customers, using them to stop weeds, so we have to pay for a service we don’t use and beat that service to the leaves we need.

Pine needles are much used in the Southeast for mulch

Leaves are not waste and should not be wasted on compost.  Before Jo Gro existed, the city encouraged the use of leaves as mulch.  Leaves are still the best mulch for stopping weeds, and we should use them for mulch, not compost.  The City should stop this franchisee subsidy of a single composter at the expense of landscape maintenance, those who do it, and our customers.