Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


St. Paul’s libertarian alleys raise questions of basic civics

MinnPost photo by Bill Lindeke
Under a new proposal in St. Paul, each trash hauler would be assigned a specific neighborhood, eliminating situations like the one above where two rival companies travel down neighborhood’s streets and alleys each week.

When you move to St. Paul, nobody tells you that the city doesn’t plow the alleys. And neither does the city collect household garbage. It’s something homeowners have to arrange for themselves, ideally in cooperation with their closest neighbors.

Like any pair of siblings, St. Paul and Minneapolis have much in common. Yet just as small differences are amplified by familial intimacy, Minneapolis’ ruthless coordination and St. Paul’s stubborn lack of the same reveal something about their character. Today, especially on the issue of garbage collection, the environmental benefits of organizing the city’s haulers might finally be changing the conversation in St. Paul. 

When they were built, alleys in St. Paul were privately paved, and they’re still privately plowed in wintertime. So it’s around this time of year when the annual ritual of trying to organize alley plowing comes to fruition. I’ve been following the conversations and recommendations on the city’s various Facebook pages, and paying attention to people’s individual stories (like this lovely collection).

For the most part, volunteering to be the snowplow organizer is a thankless task, and most burn out after a year or two of negotiating contracts and trying to round up money from their neighbors. The best-case scenario is that an assertive and financially secure person takes charge, hiring the contractor, collecting money from as many people as possible and making up the difference out of his/her own pocket. The worst case resembles Hatfields and McCoys. (For example, you don’t want “that guy” who dumps all his snow into the alley for others to clean up.)

“I’ve lived in this city my entire life, and the city has never plowed alleys,” Kathy Lantry told me. Lantry, a long time City Council member from the East Side, has now become St. Paul’s public works director. Though she’s never lived on an alley, she empathizes with people’s concerns over alley coordination.

“It’s an artifact from way back in the day, whenever that day was,” Lantry explained. “A system had developed where neighbors got together and collected money and somebody did it for them.”

According to Lantry, city alley plowing would be an expensive proposition involving the acquisition of a whole new fleet of smaller trucks, and an expansion of the “plow cycle,” requiring both time and staffing. She believes that the current system says something about the unique character of St. Paul, especially when compared to its western neighbor.

“I do think it’s the character,’” Lantry told me. “Things developed over time, and that [bottom-up] system just kept expanding because it works.”

A brief history of St. Paul trash

Plowing isn’t the only DIY alley dynamic in the city. St. Paul doesn’t have municipal trash collection either, and the problems of plowing are multiplied with trash. St. Paul’s trash story began in 1969 when a state law banned backyard trash burning.

(This had been the preferred method of waste disposal in the ’60s, unbelievably to me. “Garbage haulers” in the era would simply collect ash from people’s homes.)

Beginning in 1970, cities had to figure out what to do. In Minneapolis, the city began coordinating municipal collection, developing a half-and-half system of splitting trash collection between official city trucks and a consortium of local haulers known as MRI (Minneapolis Refuse, Inc.).

MinnPost photo by Bill Lindeke
Minneapolis began coordinating municipal collection in the 1970s.

In St. Paul, a similar system existed for a little while too, albeit with no centralization of bins or billing. Until about 1980, the city ran a municipal waste system in competition with dozens of smaller “local” companies. But the city began accumulating more low-income and difficult-to-invoice clients and, as expenses increased, they phased it out. For the last 35 years, all of St. Paul’s trash has been handled by an ever-changing set of private companies negotiating contracts with individual homeowners.

As with the Grand Avenue parking meters, there have been recurring attempts to change the system, starting in 1979, when a city proposal for municipal waste was rejected. (A St. Paul Dispatch poll found that 61 percent of respondents were against trash organization.) In 1987, 1998, and again in 2009 the issue reappeared on City Council agendas, but each time, nothing came of it.

The case for organizing garbage

All those historical facts came from a recent study and proposal for organized hauling released by the Macalester-Groveland Community Council last week, a very thorough document funded by a environmental grant. The report, put together with the help of summer student interns from Macalester College, marks the latest and most wide-ranging attempt to organize the city’s trash.

The main benefits of organizing involve cost, energy and efficiency of geography. The Mac-Grove proposal would replace the current unorganized system with a geographically balanced “consortium.” Each of the city’s current 19 garbage haulers would be allocated a geographic “share” of the city, and instead of serving houses scattered through the city, each existing hauler would get a geographically limited area. Each hauler would be assigned a specific neighborhood, and instead of three or five trucks traveling down neighborhood’s streets and alleys each week, you would only have one.

(There would also be an “opt out” option for anyone who didn’t want to participate. Presumably these people would then handle their own trash.)

If you talk to haulers, the existing system works just fine. Ken Bergquist, of Ken Bergquist and Son Disposal Inc., insists that the current system is more efficient than people think.

“When I’m at a client’s house I’m making money, and when I’m going between two of them it’s costing money,” Bergquist, who’s against the proposal, said at a recent meeting. “What makes more sense, having a tight route or going all over hell and back? I choose to keep my routes tight. I’ve consolidated them over the years. I work hard at it. I work diligently at it.”

Externalities of the bottom-up system

Beyond the energy and cost benefits, the current system masks some more hidden consequences of the free market. For example, because alleys are all privately constructed, they don’t meet uniform standards, and are rarely designed to withstand the pressure of large trucks. Yet the existing system drastically increases the number of trucks that run down alleys, and garbage trucks are particularly hard on asphalt.

The average truck weighs 32 tons and gets 3 miles to the gallon. While there’s a complicated relationship between weight, vehicle design and road wear, studies suggest that each truck is the “wear and tear” equivalent of 1,125 automobile trips. 

Studies suggest that each garbage truck is the “wear and tear” equivalent of 1,125 automobile trips.

Other externalities might include particulate pollution, noise and safety concerns, as well as things like having more organized billing and collection of “bulk items,” which are often simply dumped onto the city’s vacant land. When Sheila Sweeney and Liz Boyer, both representing the Mac-Grove Community Council, presented the plan last week to a somewhat skeptical audience, they seemed to breathe a sigh of relief that so many people shared their concerns.

“I thought the meeting went well,” Sweeney, the president of the neighborhood group, told me. “Frankly I expected more organized opposition. We have opened ourselves up to doing talks in other parts of the city — four more throughout the city.”

The romance of the trash man

At the community meeting, held in a packed Macalester College classroom, public opinion seemed about split on the proposal. While the environmental benefits are pretty clear, there remains a certain sweaty romance to the image of the noble trash man, a small-time entrepreneur eking out a living in the least glamorous way possible.

“I fully support the local little guy,” said Alisa Lane, who lives on Grand Avenue and doesn’t like the proposal. “It’s hard for me to want to go into this big system because I think the little guys, over a number of years, they’re going to not be around. If they want to expand, they can’t, which is unfortunate.”

Mac-Grove Community Council
Public opinion in St. Paul is split on the idea of coordinated trash collection.

How you view the trash problem depends a great deal on where you are, and the social demographics of your neighborhood. For a wealthier area like Highland, having a “personal relationship” with your trash hauler might be commonplace. In other neighborhoods with less time and money to devote to the cause, the DIY garbage system has fewer obvious benefits.

“There are empty lots, there are abandoned houses, and there are low-income homeowners who can’t afford trash pickup, or don’t know how to do trash pickup,” said Jean Moreau, who lives in Frogtown and loved the idea of organized trash. “A lot of garbage winds up in everybody else’s yards, next to their bins, or in the middle of the alley. In our neighborhood, the bottom line is just get the trash picked up, please! I don’t have any emotional attachment to a hauler; I don’t really understand people who do.”

Basic civics 101

St. Paul’s alley goings-on are a textbook case of civics, where cities have to decide what services should be private and public, how to balance cost and equity concerns, and whether efficiencies of scale are worth the decrease in entrepreneurial opportunity.

At one point during last Wednesday’s presentation, someone muttered “socialism,” and the room broke out into laughter. But there’s truth there. Today, St. Paul remains a world where anyone with a bit of gumption and a truck can pull themselves up by their trailer hitches and start a business.

Come next year, though the same people might be picking up trash, with “big government” organizing everything something important will have changed. The environmental benefits are compelling, but so will be the loss of free-market innocence.

Comments (41)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 12/14/2015 - 10:38 am.

    Loved This One

    This was fun, Bill. The graphs might be a distraction; but, that’s from a guy just looking for some chuckles this Monday morning. Maybe Saint Paul no longer has enough tough old Norwegian guys to organize the remaining old Swedes. Of course, this comes from an old Englishman, all the way back.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/14/2015 - 10:44 am.

    The last time

    …I actually burned household trash was when I was in high school (I’m half a century and more beyond that age at present) and my family lived on a farm that was dozens of miles from any genuine municipality. Having lived as an adult in both situations as a municipal resident in multiple cities in multiple states over the years – several private haulers vs. municipal trash collection exclusively – I’d vote for the latter every. single. time. and without question. Having the trash collected exclusively by the city costs less, pays its workers better, makes better provision for environmental friendliness, and, at least in my personal experience, is more responsive to customer complaints. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from others about unresponsive and irresponsible city trash collection, but those stories don’t match my experience.

  3. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 12/14/2015 - 11:04 am.

    There is also the air pollution issue

    Reducing the number of trucks not only saves the pavement, it helps to save our air as well. There are several trash haulers and recyclers who have made the move to cleaner, less pollution fuels than traditional diesel.

    Eureka Recycling’s trucks, for example, run on a B20 biodiesel blend. ACE, Waste Management, Randy’s Sanitation and Republic all run at least part of their fleets on compressed natural gas or CNG. Not only does CNG burn cleaner than diesel, the engines are quieter, too.

    In my ‘burb the city picks a single hauler/recycler for everyone. It just works out better that way.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/14/2015 - 11:27 am.

    Let the market decide

    In my 35+ years at this residence in St. Paul, I’ve had about a half dozen different trash haulers. In each case, I chose (get it, chose?) to change haulers due to poor service or unfair price increases. I like the idea of choosing the best service at the best price … something that would not be the case with a government-run, monopoly which could raise prices or change service and leave me with no recourse.

    Consumer choice … the REAL advantage of free market economics.

  5. Submitted by Tom Clark on 12/14/2015 - 11:32 am.

    Me too

    Having lived in places where there was and wasn’t municipal trash collection, I’ll also take the efficiency of a municipal system every time, given the economies of scale it offers in terms of the number of trash trucks needed, fuel consumed, driver hours, etc.

  6. Submitted by Ben Ashley-Wurtmann on 12/14/2015 - 11:40 am.

    I assume the companies are all allowed to re-bid every few years. Wouldn’t be hard to put weight on customer satisfaction surveys to determine how much territory to allot to a given hauler. Keep people happy, get more turf.

  7. Submitted by Nick Wood on 12/14/2015 - 11:42 am.

    Private Haulers

    I moved to STP from NYC, and was surprised to learn that you had to arrange (and pay for) for your own garbage service.

    It didn’t take long to realize the advantages of a private system. A given hauler would come in at one price, and gradually raise the rate — which you could counter by simply switching haulers. I also learned that some haulers would gouge you on the fee for occasional extra items, even though you consistently put out less trash than you had contracted for (say 90 gallon service).

    I therefore cringe when I contemplate a single hauler system, since I would bet my last dollar that it will mean poorer customer service and higher rates.

  8. Submitted by Rick Ryan on 12/14/2015 - 11:44 am.

    Minneapolis system works great

    The solid waste and recycling fees are on your monthly Water and Sewer bill.
    Mpls. will pick up almost anything if you leave it alongside the garage with a note “Solid Waste”, this helps keeps the neighborhood clean and helps stop illegal dumping.
    In my alley our pickup is Thursday morning weekly for garbage, every other week for recycling. Less noise, less wear and tear on our concrete city plowed alley, more efficient, and less polluting.

  9. Submitted by Anthony Schmitz on 12/14/2015 - 01:11 pm.

    about choice

    Like one of the posters above, I’m also a 35-year resident of St. Paul. Frogtown, to be exact. So maybe my perspective is a bit different. But when people say they want the freedom to chose their trash hauler, what I hear is that they want to choose that my neighborhood perpetually be littered with tires, mattresses, TVs, sofas and other junk. Here’s how it works. People in St. Paul who don’t have much money sometimes choose not to hire a trash hauler at all. When they have big, bulky items, they too often solve that problem by choosing to toss their junk in the alley or in public spaces. Not much of a problem if you live in Highland, probably, but an ongoing aggravation in poorer parts of town. My choice is to live in a reasonably clean environment. A basic function of government, most people would agree, is to assure that reasonable standards of sanitation are met. The current “system” doesn’t do that if you live in certain parts of town. It’s time to move past the cow-town model and institute a trash hauling system that actually manages to get trash hauled in every part of the city.

  10. Submitted by Adam Miller on 12/14/2015 - 01:19 pm.

    Not just St Paul

    I drove down my MIL’s Richfield alley last night and noticed bins with the names of three different haulers on a single block.

    Never mind the more detailed analysis, who wants three different sets of garbage trucks traversing the alley at once?

  11. Submitted by Tom Reasoner on 12/14/2015 - 01:35 pm.

    libertarian alleyways

    The ‘environmental benefits’ seem more than ‘compelling’ compared to the mass redundancies inherent in whatever the current ‘free-market innocence’ is.

  12. Submitted by Bill Lindeke on 12/14/2015 - 01:38 pm.

    free market + externalities

    My understanding of economics is that it’s smart to include as many “externalities” as possible into the price of a service. Some of them here include additional road maintenance costs, noise, air pollution, and the opportunity cost of not having trash picked up in many places (like the vacant lot in Frogtown). So, sure, I like the free market as much as the next guy*. But we should be making informed decisions about how the city subsidizes the situation.

    * Actually I probably don’t.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 12/14/2015 - 09:54 pm.

      Pricing is Micro Economics

      Many of these concerns are Macro, as well.

      • Submitted by Adam Miller on 12/15/2015 - 12:07 pm.

        No, none of this is macro

        All of this is microeconomics – the economics of the market for trash hauling services – rather than business cycle, which is the subject of macro.

  13. Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 12/14/2015 - 01:39 pm.

    I’ve always been mystified by this. The joys of multiple trucks going in and out of the neighborhood for your kids to dodge. The wear and tear on alleys. The fun of getting to add several tasks to the to-do list (research haulers, contact and negotiate, re-contact to see if hauler #12 will match rate of #3). The fun of being a debt-collector for alley snow removal. The excess trash in the city. Love the Minneapolis system– one bill, one set of trucks, no playing debt-collector, no hassle. Plus soon the option of curb-side organic pick-up. Would not trade systems under any circumstance.

    Enjoy, St Paul. Have fun watching the truck parade and patching the pavement.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/14/2015 - 02:15 pm.

      People who prefer

      the Minneapolis way of doing this general prefer having others make their decisions for them. I once helped an immigrant family from Russia navigate their first trip to the grocery store in St. Paul. While some were shocked and amazed at the number of breakfast cereals on the shelf, others said “There’s too many choices …you decide.”

      While some prefer to rely on the collective, others prefer to be free men. I get that, Dimitri.

      • Submitted by Dimitri Drekonja on 12/14/2015 - 02:45 pm.

        Ha, I like it– as the alley plowing goes, so shall our FREEDOM!!!!

        I can just hear Mel Gibson bellowing it out.

        Glad you like dealing with that hassle, and subsidizing the trucking and asphalt industries. But really, trying to link efficient garbage disposal to freedom is pretty funny. Thanks for the chuckle,

  14. Submitted by Teresa Fishel on 12/14/2015 - 02:13 pm.

    Competition is better

    I so hope our city does not try to manage our garbage pickup. And heaven help us if we need to rely on the city for alley plowing as based on how they plow in our neighborhood, we’ll never be able to get out of our alley in the winter!

    I do manage the alley plowing for our short block and I did survey a variety of firms and found our plowing is done at a much lower cost for the few of us on the alley that pay for the plowing. I feel good that I am able to keep our costs down.

    Same for our garbage pickup. I have checked rates and services and we have a very fair priced service. When we have a particularly large item to dispose of, I can contact them and arrange for them to haul it. They do offer a discount for block-wide pick up, but I wouldn’t try and pressure my neighbors to use the same service, even though I think they do a great job.

    I am hopeful that as it was in the case of parking meters on Grand Avenue, the city council will not choose to take a path that will in all likelihood lead to increased prices for garbage pickup. Please focus on improving the snow plowing in winter and leave residential garbage as it is.

  15. Submitted by James Hamilton on 12/14/2015 - 03:09 pm.

    You can have my trash container

    when you pull it from my cold, dead hands.

    Most of my alley neighbors have pooled resources for plowing for more than 30 years. A few on the ends of the alley don’t need it and one or two have been free riders from time to time. I think we paid $13 this year, which is probably far less than we’d pay for the city to do it, based on my per foot street maintenance charges.

    I tried to organize trash pickup a few years back, thinking we might all save a buck or two if we used the same hauler. I limited my research to those currently serving the block, 4-6 haulers as I recall. While all offered some discount, my neighbors weren’t interested in leaving their current haulers based solely on price and the promise of a few fewer trucks per week.

    Frankly, I’m mystified by the efforts some go to to compel organized hauling in St. Paul. 4 to 6 trucks per week come down my alley, which as anyone who lives in St. Paul knows is a very far cry from the concrete slab depicted above. Yet, after 31 years at my current address, the alley surface remains relatively intact.

    Some complain about noise. Again, I’m mystified, My bedroom window is perhaps 25′ from the alley and I’ve yet to be woken by a garbage truck, even with my windows open on a summer morn.

    So, please: leave us alone with our eccentricities and focus on something more significant. Hey, if you can solve the Ayd Mill Road controversy, you’ll be sainted by a good percentage of those living in western St. Paul. (Not to be confused with West St. Paul and the West Side, which lie south of Saint Paul or the West End, which is southwest of downtown.)

  16. Submitted by Wes Davey on 12/14/2015 - 03:15 pm.

    This summer I counted 11 refuse companies doing business in the two block stretch behind my home – you can’t get much more inefficient than that. It’s a safety concern for the kids playing in the alley, and when it comes time to repair the alleyways the burden will be on the homeowner – not the refuse companies. Choice? I choose efficiency and safety.

  17. Submitted by Phil Dech on 12/14/2015 - 03:23 pm.

    The alley was our lifeline.

    Growing up in Mac-Groveland, we were near the middle of one of those 1/2 mile squares among the snow emergency routes. After a big snow, I mean really big, not the merely annoying ones, while we waited 2 days for the city to plow out the side streets, we could take the alley, which was plowed out immediately, about 1 1/2 blocks to Snelling, and thus be able to access the non walkable places we needed to go. Not sure we could have gotten anywhere if there was a similar city 2 day “snow emergency” schedule for alleys, and alleys would probably be even lower priority than the side streets. I recently moved back to St. Paul, and the lay of the land seems about the same, so I’m still fairly happy with the arrangement. (I reimburse our neighborhood organizer promptly.) I’d be interested to hear the Mpls experience in that regard.

  18. Submitted by Pat Thompson on 12/14/2015 - 04:25 pm.

    Let’s not confuse plowing and trash hauling. While privately arranged alley-plowing has its problems, it doesn’t result in multiple trucks traversing the neighborhood alleys and streets every week, and it may actually result in better service than we would get from the city. I would leave the plowing as is and concentrate on garbage hauling.

    The Mac-Groveland study makes it clear that coordinated hauling through a consortium arrangement, as they recommend, generally saves people 30 – 50% directly on their bills. And of course it will also save on external costs like alley maintenance, air pollution, and safety from large heavy trucks roaring down the streets.

    The Mac-Groveland study found that about two-thirds of those surveyed favored coordinated pickup if the cost was the same or less than currently.

  19. Submitted by Kevin Gallatin on 12/14/2015 - 08:49 pm.

    Current system is not much of a free market

    In a free market prices are set by mutual consent between a seller and a buyer. Newcomers to the Saint Paul rubbish market have little idea what constitutes a reasonable price. Sellers are well aware of this and they do everything conceivable to make apples-to-apples comparisons impossible, using introductory rates, free months, odd length billing cycles, etc. Additionally, recycling fees are buried in property taxes instead as coming as a REFUND on every sanitation bill as they do in Minneapolis. Confusing pricing, the hassle of collecting and comparing bids, contracts, and cancellation fees virtually guarantee that residents will mindlessly pay every-increasing bills to avoid the hassle of researching another provider.

    I’m happy with my hauler and it’s nice that they are a family business, but I pay $35.05 a month including yard waste. That’s $420.60 a year, plus the mandatory hidden recycling fee of $54.20 for $474.80. When I lived in Minneapolis I paid less than that for more services (that was 3 years ago; I believe it would be $439.68 now but if any current residents have a better number please share it). In Minneapolis they’ll take mattresses, appliances, furniture, and electronics for free. There’s no shopping around required, and the community avoids the negative externalities of Saint Paul’s wild west sanitation.

  20. Submitted by Rick Prescott on 12/14/2015 - 10:24 pm.

    I Really Can’t Believe This

    I’ve lived in Minneapolis for over 30 years, and never ONCE have I given a single thought to either my garbage pick-up or my alley plowing. It just happens. Effortless. Cheap. Reliable. Invisible.

    Why would anybody want it any other way?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/15/2015 - 09:33 am.

      Because FREEDOM!

      Nothing says “liberty” louder than wasting your time selecting a trash hauler and debating alley plowing with your neighbors.

      The Bolsheviks are going to take away your trash cans, right after they get your guns, light bulbs, and breakfast cereal.

  21. Submitted by Matt Haas on 12/14/2015 - 10:57 pm.

    Efficiency is God

    For the free market true believer, except when it isn’t, it seems. You wouldn’t want multiple competing entities running their own power, phone, or water lines to each individual residence, it would be a ridiculous nuisance and ugly to boot. Yet you are more than willing to put up with dozens of competing garbage trucks, cluttering up your streets, inconvienencing both yourselves and your neighbors, all in the name of “freedom”. For those who claim a monopoly on common sense, it sure is lacking sometimes.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/15/2015 - 08:35 am.

      The free market

      isn’t about efficiency. In fact it’s usually inefficient. It’s about choice.

      And who wouldn’t want a choice for the source of phone service (we have that) TV and internet connection (we have that) and electrical power? (it’s coming)

      You choose to be efficient, I choose the right to choose.

      • Submitted by Adam Miller on 12/15/2015 - 12:17 pm.

        The point of choice

        Or as economists would call it, competition, is economic efficiency – driving prices toward marginal costs and reducing dead weight loss. Unless you’re the monopolist, those are objectively good things.

        Where there are market failures that lead competition not to provide those things – like large network effects and externalities – there are reasons to question what the value of choice is.

        If your answer is you just like it, well, great, but should that win if it’s costing everyone else in higher prices and poorer service? You getting a choice that provides you no benefit but is subsidized by others doesn’t sound much like “freedom.”

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/15/2015 - 03:47 pm.

          Switching from trash hauler A to trash hauler B

          to save $35 a month is more than a theory. And my savings has zero effect on the other customers of trash hauling since they also have the choice to select a different hauler for different reasons.

          However, if they choose to go with my new trash hauler because of the word of mouth advertising, that would save that new customer $35 as well, has created a new revenue stream for the hauler and has increased his efficiency because now he can pick up from two customers who are side-by-side, improving his fuel costs per customer.

          That probably wasn’t mentioned in your textbook either.

          • Submitted by Adam Miller on 12/16/2015 - 01:23 pm.

            You took advantage of competition

            Congratulations, but you just said that you didn’t care about that, you just care about having a choice.

            If it increases efficiency to have you and your neighbor buy from the same provider (those would be the network effects), shouldn’t you think a bit about whether it would similarly increase efficiency for your whole neighborhood to use one provider and save everyone $35?

            • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 12/16/2015 - 04:13 pm.

              I’m sure it would

              but it should be a voluntary decision made by the buyers, not mandated by government. There’s that “freedom” thing again.

          • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/17/2015 - 02:34 pm.


            If you can save $35 a month by switching trash haulers, yet another person pays $35 a month, then it stands to reason that you either REALLY overpaid for at least one hauler, or you get your trash hauled for free. That is, I don’t believe it. And, if true, your level of excitation for “saving” money must rely on an initially inflated price, which, as economists will universally tell you, isn’t really a savings.

            You wanna know what I pay for my municipally selected garbage hauler? About $120 every 3 months…of course, that also includes water, sewer, and recycling. And all fees and taxes related those services. Definitely well under $35 a month. Of course, in order to make sure we were getting the best service for the best price, the city actually switched providers for trash, and separately for recycling, recently. Overall, considering that my neighborhood is probably a lot more spread out than yours, and thus probably technically more expensive on a per-household basis, your excitement about a $35 savings on something that shouldn’t cost more than $35 would suggest that your power of negotiation isn’t very good, your understanding of what a savings might actually look like is limited, and/or your trash hauler is making a KILLING off of you (that, or he’s actually not increased his efficiency, so yeah…).

  22. Submitted by Julie Barton on 12/15/2015 - 07:33 am.

    I’ll stick w/ the Mpls system, thank you…

    As a former suburbanite now living in Mpls, I adore the municipal system. I pay less for garbage/recycling/solid waste that I previously did, by about $35/month, and the fact that I can actually leave the solid waste on the alley instead of arranging to haul it myself is amazingly awesome!

    My parents live in a suburb south of the river, who for years had the “choose your own garbage carrier” plan. The trucks would roll down their street every day of the week as each person had a different haulage firm. But their ‘burb changed to require that geographic areas have their garbage pick up on the same day. So instead of 5 days of garbage at the curbside in my parents neighborhood, now everyone’s goes to the curb on Thursday, no matter the company. While this does not change the cost to the environment, it does lessen the daily noise/smell of the engines/ and just cluttered look of random cans each and every day, maybe that would be a good starting place for St Paul?

    As for the plowing: I know too many friends in St Paul that cannot get in/out of their alleys due to the snowplowing situation (it’s not like you can have the companies simply avoid the people who don’t pay, though it would be nice to have all the snow dumped in the non-payers drive sometimes they say) I get in/out of my alley just fine in Minneapolis, even on the heaviest of snow days (which I hope are coming soon!)

  23. Submitted by Moira Heffron on 12/15/2015 - 08:30 am.

    Garbage hauling choice

    In our area, I wanted to support a local hauler who offered fairly competitive prices, though I have been annoyed at the fuel surcharge that never goes away.I acknowledged, however, the wear and tear associated with multiple haulers on our streets. Now our community has identified 3 companies already doing business here, negotiated with them on rates and service, and allocated different sectors to each. I’ll be curious to see how it works out on rates and customer satisfaction, but it seems like a good solution (and keeps the company I had used in the mix).

  24. Submitted by Elizabeth Cassady on 12/15/2015 - 10:36 am.

    Wait for Bloomington

    Bloomington just went through the public discussion of Organized Trash Hauling. Despite the same arguments made by citizens the city council approved OTC starting in the spring. Most residents support it. Just wait for the implementation and St. Paul will see the benefits.

  25. Submitted by Jay Davis on 12/16/2015 - 12:05 am.

    Other cities

    Wondering if there are any other medium or large cities other than Saint Paul and Bloomington with private, decentralized trash pickup.

  26. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 12/17/2015 - 09:06 am.

    There is a real difference between haulers in Bloomington

    Some areas will end up with the lesser haulers with poor customer service. Also there is only one single package available. Mypresent hauler provided for every week recycling and longer yard waste pickup; now that choice will die. Already the price of this socialist program has gone up in price. Hopefully the judge on this case will order the city council to put this issue to a referendum. Why are the political powers so afraid of referendum?

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/17/2015 - 02:49 pm.

      Probably because the true cost of this kind of stuff isn’t actually borne by individuals, but rather on the municipality. That is, you make the choice to hire one hauler, and the rest of the block decides on a combination of another 4 haulers,you now have a minimum of 5 trash trucks on that street every single week, regardless of whether those trucks get efficiently filled. You have now added to the cost of street maintenance by an additional 4 trash trucks. Even if you assume that there’s no further cost (fuel use associated costs, increased heavy traffic costs), you have just added approximately 64,000 pounds x 4 to that road every week (empty). That’s the equivalent of 58 more large sedans or 47 of the largest SUVs. On. One. Block. Empty. Multiply that by every city block and then add trash to those trucks. How much do you like potholes? I don’t like them, either. If I want them filled, I have to pay taxes. If I want to pay fewer taxes on potholes (or avoid paying to fix my car because the city doesn’t have tax money to fill potholes), it makes sense to minimize the flipping potholes. One truck costs less in both direct hauling expenses and taxes (and/or car repair costs). And, you know what? Sometimes that means your choice gets narrowed because it shouldn’t cost the rest of society that kind of money and aggravation because you don’t like [airquotes] socialism [airquotes]. For what it’s worth, because you had the opportunity to vote for the officials that make these kinds of decisions, it’s already been put to referendum. We don’t need to vote for every little thing because that’s how a democratic republic (as defined by the Constitution) works.

      • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 12/18/2015 - 10:05 am.

        No potholes on my street

        And even the city could not come up with any PROOF as to the amount of damage to the roads. And referendums come up all the time; never voted on a school referendum in Bloomington? You can accept a lousy trash hauler. I prefer not to.

        • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/18/2015 - 01:03 pm.


          My trash hauler is fine. Comes on time, same day, picks up my garbage, just like they’re supposed to. I don’t make friends with them or anything, since I’m at work when they come and I don’t spend a lot of time waiting around to chat with every service person that I have the benefit of getting services from. So, if he’s not a nice guy, I can’t speak to that.

          As for proof, it’s math. If you don’t have any potholes, more power to ya. Pretty sure that you’re paying taxes for potholes, though. They seem to be everywhere else.

          I don’t live in Bloomington. So, no, I’ve never voted on any referendums in Bloomington. In any case, it’s a different matter since a referendum is a matter of raising taxes for the specific purpose of obtaining /extra/ money beyond the state’s allotted amount for a school district. That is, it’s not about every day, common sense decisions about trash hauling. If every single thing needed to be brought up as a referendum, it would be pointless to elect officials, and would be contrary to how our government was designed in the Constitution.

  27. Submitted by Max Berger on 12/30/2015 - 01:29 pm.

    I miss Minneapolis

    I lived 5 years in Minneapolis and I miss its organisation concerning the trash system. Not only for its organized trash haulers but also the big items you can throw in the alley every two weeks without paying a penny. The recycling trash system was also much better, and the Minneapolis gave you a garbage can with wheel that can hold more than a day of recycling trash compare to these tiny blue bins! I know that you have to pay more taxes for these services but it worth it. It’s not about socialism or BigBrother government it’s about to have a more efficient organized trash hauling system…

Leave a Reply