Thursday, May 24

Sandra Wenceslao: LA recycling program needs better regulation, tailoring to customers


Los Angeles City Council members must obtain input from landlords and tenants in order to improve waste management throughout the city. (Hannah Johnson/Daily Bruin)

Los Angeles City Council members must obtain input from landlords and tenants in order to improve waste management throughout the city. (Hannah Johnson/Daily Bruin)


Walking to and from UCLA to your apartment can be tiring process – especially if you’re one of the unlucky few living off campus. Now, imagine having to push aside large amounts of trash every day in order to go up the stairs to your apartment just because haulers have missed waste pickups.

The city of Los Angeles launched a program in 2017 called recycLA that aims to provide a customer-friendly and efficient waste and recycling service for Angelenos. RecycLA splits Los Angeles into 11 areas and assigns each section one of seven waste haulers – with Athens being Westwood’s hauler. The program’s website states recycLA hopes to provide services previously not available to citizens, such as organics recycling, placement of new recycling and trash bins, and regular maintenance and replacement of waste bins.

RecycLA isn’t living up to everyone’s expectations, however. More than 28,000 complaints for missed waste pickups have been made since July, according to the Bureau of Sanitation. The Los Angeles Times reported that in addition to the number of complaints due to missed pickups, the number of identified inaccurate customer bills has tripled since December.

As of now, haulers are expected to refund the customer the amount that was overbilled if they are found to have been wrongfully charged. Starting Feb. 1, haulers that don’t address the missed pickups in a timely manner will face financial penalties.

But financial penalties aren’t necessarily the answer to better meeting customers’ expectations. Current regulations don’t go far enough in helping recycLA be as efficient as possible.

Los Angeles City Council members must go further by contacting landlords to obtain their input on how they believe haulers can best serve their tenants and their communities. Fining waste haulers is only effective in incentivizing them to not skimp on the job. Organizing meetings with city officials, property owners and Los Angeles neighborhood members, however, would help the city determine how to create a stricter and more detailed set of guidelines to hold haulers accountable to any missed collections or inaccuracies in customer bills. It would also help officials ensure the respective waste hauling systems are optimal for residents and business owners.

In areas like Westwood, for example, where there is a large college student presence, trash can accumulate significantly faster than in other neighborhoods.

Kunjan Patel, a third-year computer science student living in an off-campus apartment, said he thinks more recycling stations and bins are needed in the neighborhood. He added tenants in his building have created an unofficial dumping area in the parking structure and that trash and recyclables are left on the sidewalk because there aren’t enough waste bins.

Waste in Westwood only gets worse during move-in periods. Sakshi Dureja, a third-year human biology and society student also living in an off-campus apartment, said waste and detritus accumulate during campus transition periods and end up going uncollected for long periods of time.

“During move-in, recyclable items, such as boxes, accumulate in the lobby area. Sometimes there are recyclable items left outside our building,” Dureja said. “It (takes) about a week to be picked up.”

Dureja said her building didn’t even have a recycling option until early December, which was well after the recycLA program was launched.

 

Section regulations and haulers’ schedules have to be unique to the neighborhoods they’re serving. Westwood has students moving in and out multiple times throughout the year unlike other sections, illustrating how a set of regulations for the entirety of Los Angeles won’t necessarily fit the specific needs of each section.

Moreover, the new time frame beginning February that is meant to address missed pickups is not enough to get rid of all of recycLA’s faults. The new measure states that complaints made before 2 p.m. must be addressed before 6 p.m. of that same day, while complaints after 2 p.m. have until 10 a.m. of the next day to be addressed. This rule, however, only takes care of the recurring issue of missed pickups. And, while recycLA has an online portal allowing customers to dispute their bills, it isn’t enough for Angelenos to voice their concerns or what they hope to see improved.

Of course, a motion issued by Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Koretz asked the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation to report whether certain service providers have failed to fulfill their agreed-upon obligations under recycLA. This will bring to question whether service providers’ individual contracts should be terminated due to substantial failure to meet their obligations. While this does hold haulers accountable, it will only produce more disorganization. New haulers will be assigned sections and will abide by the same regulations that previous haulers have worked under. And as shown before, the regulations aren’t efficient enough.

Organizing recurring meetings, on the other hand, creates a direct line of communication between the landlords and tenants with the city and its haulers. Such meetings would allow representatives of landlords and property owners to share their specific hauling needs, create new guidelines based on what tenants and landlords deem important and lay out more detailed expectations of what the landlords and the sections’ haulers are responsible for.

The city could also collect information that determines the section’s waste fluctuations depending on move-in and move-out dates. The collected information on communities, such as Westwood, can aid the city in relaying the needed information to haulers for them to take into consideration the scheduled pickups.

 

RecycLA seems to be a program that was launched without much forethought or planning. Yet, there’s still hope for it – if only the city and its waste haulers listen to the people they serve.

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Opinion columnist

Sandra Wenceslao is an opinion columnist.


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