Watch CBS News

Some Berkeley residents could pay more for garbage service despite producing less waste

Some Berkeley residents could pay more for garbage service despite producing less waste
Some Berkeley residents could pay more for garbage service despite producing less waste 02:42

BERKELEY -- The city of Berkeley says it needs to raise rates for garbage pickup service, but the plan officials have come up with will charge the biggest increases to people producing the least trash.

At a meeting last month, Councilmembers got a reality check when it comes to what they charge for garbage service.

"We know these are significant increases and we would like to realign the rates with the cost of service," they were told by city staff.

The cost of refuse pickup has gone up, but any rate hikes are being influenced by Prop 218, a 1996 ballot initiative that mandates that fees must be based on the actual cost of service.  

For years, as an incentive to recycle, Berkeley has offered a discounted rate to people who use the smallest trash cans, passing a greater cost onto those who have larger ones.  But under Prop 218, that's not exactly legal.

"We've identified that Prop 218 is not consistent with the kinds of incentives we want to build in to promote recycling and composting," Berkeley Public Works Director Liam Garland told the council.  "There's certain parts of Prop 218 that make that difficult."

The problem is the cost of the pickup service is the same regardless of the size of the can. So now, those with the smallest receptacles will see the biggest fee hike. Under the new plan, service for a small 20-gallon can will more than double over the next five years, while the fee for the monster 96-gallon bin will actually decrease next year.  

That just didn't seem right to homeowner Jennifer Brown.

"People that have smaller trash cans are recycling better," she said.  "And so, that could be unfair to them because they're actually doing what they're supposed to be doing."

President of the Northern California Recyclers Association Jessica Jane Robinson said these kinds of discounts are now being re-examined all over the state.

"Especially in the Bay Area, because we've had these programs for a while," she said. "And as we become more successful and more people buy in, someone's going to have to make up for the lost revenue to run these programs."

But Berkeley resident Bill Issel said that's not likely to sit well with the city's avid recyclers.

"An example of going from zero to 100 on the outrage scale for some of our more progressive, ecologically minded fellow Berkeley citizens!" he said with a laugh.

Letters have gone out to property owners about the rate increases and they'll have until June 27 to file written challenges against the new rates.  But unless more than half of property owners file challenges, the city can take a final vote to approve the increases which could go into effect on July 1st.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.