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Waste Management v. Recology in SF a battle with national implications

Waste Management is angry
Waste Management v. Recology for the right to dump San Francisco waste is a battle with national implications. Why? It essentially pits one giant garbage firm, Waste Management, against it's much smaller competitor Recology and may pave the way for other local firms to have more success in competing against national organizations in the waste business. Waste Management is 43,400 employees in size; Recology, formerly NorCal Waste Systems, has 2,100.

This blogger normally doesn't pay much attention to local trash, preferring the national celebrity brand, but a political battle between two established companies, and the fact that a lot of people from various sides have talked about it without any provocation, caused this space to wade into an argument such that regardless of what is stated, and how reasonable it may be, the other side - or some other side - is bound to be pissed off.

But the reason for the attention from this space was a March 30,2010 San Francisco Bay Guardian (SFBG) article that claimed Waste Management was "Oakland-based"; an online check revealed Waste Management was not Oakland-based but headquartered (another word for "based") in Houston, Texas at 1001 Fannin St.,Ste. 4000.

What giant Waste Management has is an Oakland office, but that's to have a local political face to help land SF Bay Area work. It's just smart business, but Waste Management is not based in Oakland.

Nothing against the media legend that is Bruce Brugmann at all, but the SFBG really went to town in attacking one side against the other. The SFBG made Waste Management look like a local, environmentally-concerned organization, against, well, Recology.

What happened was that Recology tentatively won a contract with the City and County of San Francisco to haul San Francisco's unrecycled trash by train to its Ostrum Road Landfill in Yuba County, starting in 2015, according to Kevin Fagan of The San Francisco Chronicle. The organization they beat for this right by vote of the San Francisco Commission on the Environment was Waste Management, which currently takes the San Francisco trash to Livermore's Altamont landfill area that it owns. Recology has an alternative proposal that takes the trash to Yuba County.

What's interesting is the SFBG went through the scoring for the proposals submitted and nitpicked what scores Recology was given and claimed the process seemed to have some "subjectivity." Any judgement by any government committee is generally subjective, save for one part: cost. Recology's proposal was less expensive than that from Waste Management.

The San Francisco Commission on the Environment made a daring decision: to go with the less expensive Recology proposal. Daring, because the San Francisco Commission on the Environment screwed with a huge value chain of interests, from Waste Management's Altamont landfill to the City of Livermore and the County of Alameda, which make money from it, to The Sierra Club, who has a monetary grant-making interest in the revenue generated from the Altamont Landfill.

Now here comes Recology to screw it all up. In doing so, the attacks on Recology reveal an environmental industrial complex active in Northern California and that seems to block out new organizations from working within it. Recology was fortunate in that it already has a hand in the collection of the garbage in San Francisco, but believes it can do a better job by establishing a fully controlled and more cost effective transport system than what exists by Recology's working with Waste Management.

Recology issued the more cost effective proposal and a brave San Francisco Commission on the Environment picked them. In short, it gave a really local firm a chance to grow rather than be hampered by the environmental industrial complex. Waste Management is not a true local firm; the attempts to make it look as if it is are unfortunate. If Recology can do a better job, and the San Francisco Commission on the Environment thinks it can, give the San Francisco firm a chance.

Of course, it's not that easy; here comes the defenders of the San Francisco environmental industrial complex, here them roar, and all to protect their money.

Stay tuned.
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