Toledo Officials Tout Public-Private Partnership in Solid Waste Collection

I’m always on the lookout for examples of policymakers explaining how privatization helped them deliver benefits to taxpayers. Unfortunately, there are too few examples. But this great promotional video produced by Republic Services does just that, using first-hand testimony from local officials in Toledo, Ohio, where since 2011 Republic has provided solid waste management services under contract (via an agreement with Lucas County).

The video features Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, Toledo City Councilman Tom Waniewski, and several other local officials and city department heads discussing the rationale and benefits of their solid waste contract, covering residential trash and recycling collection. Key points from the video include:

  • According to Mayor Bell, Toledo was facing a $48 million deficit at the time. With citizens reluctant to pay higher taxes or fees and the city keen to preserve services and avoid layoffs, officials decided to identify ways to improve efficiency. The city approached Lucas County about teaming up on a solid waste contract. The combined entity made an agreement with Republic that would realize $6 million in annual savings.
  • 69 city-employed solid waste workers were impacted by privatization, but none became unemployed. They all either took a new position with the contractor or were transferred to other positions in city government. (Mayor Bell points out that the Teamsters union represented both the city’s solid waste workers and Republic’s workers, which likely played a role in facilitating a smooth transition.)
  • The city had some recently purchased waste haulage trucks on which it still owed $9.5 million. Republic bought those trucks, allowing the city to reduce its debt by $8 million (on top of the $6 million in annual savings).
  • Councilman Waniewski says that prior to privatization, the council’s constituent call tracker was logging thousands of complaint calls per year on solid waste issues, but he’s seeing no complaint calls now. Similarly, Crain’s Detroit Business reports that Mayor Bell told Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr that monthly complaints fell from between 300 and 500 down to five after Toledo contracted out collection.
  • The contractor implemented a recycling reward program for customers that provides coupons for local businesses. As Councilman Waniewski notes in the video, this is a “perk that a government entity could not offer the residents.”

Mayor Bell concludes that “for us, it was a perfect fit,” noting that the key is, “realizing what is best for the taxpayers that you’ve been voted in to represent.”

For more on solid waste contracting, see Reason’s recycling and waste research archive here.