Rates to go up as city of Mercer Island switches garbage contractors

City selects new trash, recycling and compostables hauler for 2019.

The city of Mercer Island’s contract for solid waste collection services will expire next fall. After an unsuccessful attempt to extend it amid markets in “complete disarray” — especially for recycling — the city set off to find a new provider.

City staff looked at proposals from four companies following a request for proposals (RFP) process, and the council approved a contract with Recology King County Inc. on Dec. 11, after making revisions and bringing the expected rate increase from 29 percent down to 8 percent.

The city’s 10-year contract with Republic Services (also known as Rabanco/Allied Waste) will expire Sept. 30, 2019. Due to the current volatility in the West Coast recycling market and impacts from China’s “National Sword” and “Blue Sky” initiatives imposing stricter contamination standards, the city anticpated rates going up, and wanted to negotiate with Republic for a nine-month extension.

Republic declined the offer, but did enter the RFP process, along with Cedar Grove Services, Recology and Waste Management.

Following a months-long evaluation process and reference checks by a selection committee including members of the Utility Board, site visits and rate evaluation by an independent consultant, Recology scored the highest in both the fee assessment and the qualitative sections of the RFP.

The RFP included residential and commercial garbage collection, recycling and compostables/yard waste collection, and processing and marketing of collected recycling and compostables. The RFP criteria and timeline were discussed by the council on June 5.

“The RFP was evaluated and scored in two parts, rate evaluation and qualitative evaluation, which demonstrated knowledge, skills, experience, capacity, customer service, operations, maintenance, public outreach and education, financial management, and sustainability,” according to the city council’s Dec. 4 agenda bill.

The original contract increased recyclable and organics pickups to weekly instead of the present bi-weekly, and included a “City Sustainability Adjustment” set at 3.5 percent (expected to generate about $150,000 in revenue) based on the gross revenues received by the contractor.

Potential cost savings in the contract were pointed out in an email circulated by Mercer Islanders for Sustainable Spending.

“The garbage contract makes the city less efficient, not more efficient. With China not accepting recyclables, garbage fees will increase. But, the China headline of not accepting recyclables is masking city-imposed fees and extras that are unnecessarily adding to the price Islanders pay,” according to the email.

The council moved recycling back to bi-weekly and removed the city’s sustainability and administrative fee to bring costs for customers down.

Early next year, the city will begin to outline details of the transition to a new vendor, to include extensive communication and public outreach components. The 10-year contract with Recology will start on Oct. 1, 2019.

Recology currently serves many of Mercer Island’s neighbors, including Bothell, Burien, Carnation, Des Moines, Issaquah, Maple Valley, SeaTac, Seattle, Shoreline and also Seattle Public Schools. Learn more about Recology at www.recology.com.

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