The city of Los Angeles is currently considering a new garbage disposal plan that would see the hauling of all waste performed by a single, assigned private contractor. The plan, which is purported to be an instrumental step in reaching the "zero waste" output goal, is generating controversy due to its potential to shut down smaller contractors.
While officials supporting the plan argue that the greater L.A. area would likely see a major boost in the amount of waste recycled if the plan was implemented, LMU would likely be only minimally affected by the change due to its current emphasis on recycling. The University has already chosen to oppose the measure due to the potential dip in quality of services such a plan would provide.
"The University feels like the franchise system will limit our free market choices when it comes to solid waste hauling at the University," said Bill Stonecypher, the manager of the Solid Waste Management and Recycling departments at LMU.
Student and faculty members, however, don't see the plan as being quite as harmful.
"It probably won't affect us," said environmental science professor Dr. John Dorsey. "If anything, it'll probably be better, because more of what we put in the waste stream will be recycled."
Junior urban studies and Spanish double major Natalie Hernandez, who works as a sustainability outreach coordinator with Green LMU, agrees that the plan will have minimal impact on the University.
"LMU already recycles a lot of its waste, so I feel like it wouldn't affect our recycling efforts too much," said Hernandez. "It might just affect how much waste is hauled from here."
The plan, according to the Feb. 12 Daily News article "L.A.'s new trash plan: better for recycling or a big mess?", will allow for greater control of recycling and could lead to unionization of workers in the sanitation field.
"I think it has a lot of potential," Hernandez said of the initiative. "It will hold the [garbage collection] companies more accountable in their recycling efforts."
However, Stonecypher disagrees, stating that while the zero waste goal can be achieved under this new plan, "we think the goals of that policy can be achieved through a variety of other methods that don't include limiting a customer's options."
"By taking away choices, the answers to disposal issues as we strive to become even greener can only come from a single source," he said. "Currently, the solid waste hauling industry in the greater Los Angeles area is exploding with all these new customer options ... for greener solutions, and we think this should be encouraged and flowered, not hindered."
The additional controversy around the plan arises from the requirement of only one collection company to service each of the 11 distinct regions in L.A., meaning most smaller agencies would be put under immediate threat of being shut down, thus creating a monopoly.
"We feel like the quality of services rendered by a disposal contractor in a regional monopoly would significantly degrade the quality of service," Stonecypher said.
"Sure, it could definitely do that," Dorsey said of the possibility of a monopoly. "Everyone needs their fair shake. But even the smaller groups have said that they need to do a better job of recycling."
The new plan could also potentially raise disposal prices for the University and for the greater L.A. area.
"According to the city's own data, consumers pay almost 33 percent higher rates in exclusive franchised cities," Stonecypher said. "And that's really tough for us in this time of fiscal crisis because we're doing everything possible to keep our infrastructure costs down so we can keep tuition down."
Currently, LMU recycles 56 percent of its waste output, according to the Recycling and Waste Management information section on the University's website. LMU has been recycling since 1990, reaching state mandates for increasing the reuse of discarded materials a full five years ahead of the deadline at the turn of the millennium.
"But LMU needs to continue working on reducing our overall waste stream by cutting down on what we throw away, what we reuse," Dorsey said.
Debate over the new garbage transfer initiative began in City Hall this past Monday and will continue until the measure reaches a vote. If approved, the new program wouldn't be implemented fully until 2016.