The number of private roads to be impacted by Mercer Island’s switch to Recology for waste removal services has been significantly reduced after the service provider surveyed the island.
Beginning on Oct. 1, all waste removal in the city will be handled by Recology instead of Republic Services. As part of the process, Recology sent out waivers to about a quarter of the households on the island, those served by private roads. The waivers have been scaled back after the company examined private roads and found that only seven roads and two bridges were potentially high risk.
“We’ve taken a much more tactical approach to how we want to determine the safety and reliability of these roads,” said Kevin Kelly, Recology’s general manager at an Aug. 20 city council meeting.
The two bridges did not have weight ratings, which Recology is concerned about as it plans to begin driving its 60,000-pound trucks to provide service in the city. Concerns the company had about roads ranged from cracked pavement to large potholes.
Kelly said Recology and the city’s public works department worked to find ways forward to collect waste from residents on those roads. The seven roads identified would likely degrade with or without Recology trucks driving over them, Kelly said.
“We want to send our trucks down these roads — we want to provide a great level of service,” Kelly said. “If the road deteriorates further, we don’t want to be held liable for that.”
Service will contine as planned beginning in October even without individual agreements with the homeowners. Past that, Kelly said Recology was willing to take on some risk to keep providing waste removal. Public works director Jason Kintner said in the past that Republic Services had also worked with individual homeowners on similar issues.
Previous coverage from the Reporter found that several residents were concerned about the waivers, which released Recology from liability for road damage. That included protection from future claims for property damage or loss resulting from the weight of the vehicles.
Recology will be using three different types of trucks, ranging from large, front-loading varieties to smaller vehicles for tighter spaces. About 30 percent of customers on the Island will see their service days change.
Rates will additionally be increasing in October. For weekly service, a 32-gallon cart will increase by about $4.50 to $32.04 a month. A 64-gallon cart will increase nearly $7 to $50.41, and a 96-gallon cart will increase more than $8 to $63.26. Recology bills quarterly.
Kelly said part of the price increase is due to China restricting imports of dirty recycling material, causing revenues from selling to the country to drop.
“Mercer Island just happens to have been the first city in the region to go out for a procurement after this situation occurred, and part of what you’re seeing here is a response to what’s happened in the international marketplace,” Kelly said. “Part of it is also a reflection of new service levels.”
Bins also will be standardized across the Island, with black bins for garbage, blue for recycling and green for compost. Residents also will be able to request only monthly pickup of trash for less than $10, an option designed for people who think they can divert the rest of their waste to compost or recycling.
With the addition of Mercer Island, Recology will be serving 10 cities in the area. Mercer Island has about 7,000 single family customers and 150 commercial. In total, Recology serves some 130,000 residential customers, 5,000 multifamily customers and 12,000 commercial.