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A losing franchise.

The threat to C&D recyclers and demolition contractors from franchise agreements within local jurisdictions seems to be growing in this country. Increasingly, we are hearing reports from various parts of the country about franchising contracts between municipalities and waste haulers that require all solid waste within a jurisdiction to be sent to a place designated by the local government, the hauler or both.

The problem is that C&D materials, even highly recyclable material such as concrete, often is in the states' definition of solid waste and under the control of these solid waste contracts. This includes many tons and cubic yards, to the point where it can be a major revenue source for the landfill owner, a source that company wants to protect. Even though the local hauler/landfill operator may be forced by the local government to recycle comparatively smaller waste streams of plastic bottles, tin cans, etc., the same companies and governments often agree to dump C&D materials. That's because of the host fee, the stipend the hauler or landfill operator gives to the local government as payment for getting the franchise agreement. Many solid waste departments in this country survive thanks to that revenue.

The private waste companies know that it can be a good deal for them to have a legal monopoly in a territory. That is why they support expansion of franchise agreements, and it is in their published strategies to go after additional agreements like these. What's not to like? The municipality has the force of the law to kick out your competitors.

The state and local leagues of cities and counties endorse it because they see a steady revenue source. But among those losing out can be these same municipalities and their taxpayers, because recycling on a level playing field often is more economically beneficial if all aspects are considered (job creation, extended life of landfills, etc). The environment certainly loses because disposal supports natural resource use and fills landfills with recyclable materials.

Indeed, the way the franchise agreements are run now, many government entities that enter into franchise agreements could be considered anti-environmental. That's because too many haulers with franchise contracts do not have well-developed C&D recycling programs, instead performing minimal recycling, if any.

The argument made for franchise agreements by municipalities is that they need to protect the public health by making sure that the garbage is picked up and that franchise agreements help ensure they can meet additional recycling requirements. And the haulers say franchises help to reduce the number of trucks on the road if only one company has its vehicles out carrying boxes to and from sites. However, it still takes a truck to pull the box, no matter whose logo is on the door.

Independent recyclers are usually the most motivated recyclers in the world. Often, they don't have a landfill of their own in which to dump material they don't feel like processing. And in many parts of this country, C&D recyclers have helped to make an increasing number of materials not waste, but recyclable commodities.

That is why we need to change the definition of solid waste in this country. The first step is to stop calling recyclable C&D solid waste. This may be a state-by-state fight, and landfill owners are likely to fight this all the way. In addition, to mollify the solid waste departments, C&D recyclers have to be ready to make the same payoffs to the cities, counties and solid waste districts that they have become accustomed to receiving from the waste haulers.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editor's Focus
Author:Turley, William
Publication:Construction & Demolition Recycling
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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