© Johnny Habell | Dreamstime

When the Los Angeles City Council approved a franchise waste hauling system for the city in December 2016, it took more than the LA Sanitation Department to put the proposal together. City officials partnered with a 200-member community coalition that shared the goal of zero waste to landfill to help make the system, originally introduced as a motion by council in 2010, a reality.

The franchise system, with contracts valued at $3.5 billion, separates the city into 11 commercial and multifamily zones. Seven haulers total have been awarded contracts in one or more of these zones. (See the list on page 24.) The franchise system is the first step toward the city’s goal to address the 3 million tons of waste disposed of annually in LA by businesses, consumers and multifamily homes by establishing a waste and recycling collection program for commercial, industrial and large multifamily customers in the city.

“Before, it wasn’t as organized and, because they wanted to reach these goals, the city and council districts decided to start a franchise system to allow more citizens to recycle and reduce waste in landfills,” Genesis Godoy, public relations specialist for the LA Sanitation Department, says.

The franchise system, dubbed Zero Waste LA, was championed by the public-private partnership Don’t Waste LA and by officials from the LA Bureau of Sanitation and its recycLA program.

Don’t Waste LA is made of community, environmental, faith and labor organizations with the goal of increasing composting and recycling in LA while ensuring the safety of the laborers involved.

The recycLA program is designed to provide waste and recycling services to 80,000 commercial and multifamily residences within the city, some of which never had the opportunity to recycle before.

“The community has been receptive and excited because they didn’t have the simple opportunity to have a blue bin,” Godoy says.


From June to October 2014, the city accepted proposals from waste haulers. Sept. 26, 2016, the LA Board of Public Works recommended to LA City Council that it award the franchise agreements to seven haulers. On Dec. 12, 2016, the board approved the system and forwarded the report to Mayor Eric Garcetti and city council for final adoption.

“I championed Zero Waste LA from day one as an environmental justice advocate,” Councilwoman Nury Martinez said at the time the system was approved by the board. “Now, six years later, I’m thrilled to cast my vote for this historic legislation as the councilwoman from the San Fernando Valley. I applaud all of our city council and community advocates who have remained steadfast on this journey to ensure LA will lead the way to modern and sustainable waste management for cities across the country.”

Service providers were selected through a bidding process where they submitted extensive proposals and were picked based on their abilities to achieve the city’s goals, the recycLA website says. Selection criteria included environmental record, experience, financial resources, price, procurement and contract or agreement disputes, references, work plan and viable ability to achieve the city’s goals.

The city approved a maximum rate structure within the franchise agreements that include a basic service level that provides a black refuse bin and blue recycling bin. According to the recycLA website, service providers are currently conducting assessments in their assigned zones. Once the assessments are complete, the providers will contact all customers within their zones to determine the level of service needed. From there, each customer will be provided with a rate card that lists the available services.

“There’s an incentive for recycling more,” Godoy says. “Your rate is based on how much waste you produce. You get an incentive of being able to lower and control your rates by lowering and controlling your waste.”

With the rate structure, customers will lower their costs by frequently using their blue recycling bins. The less waste being put into the black bin, the smaller it can be, and collection frequency can be reduced.


The waste assessment process, which began July 1, started off with service providers going to the businesses and multifamily residences in their zones, introducing themselves and explaining the new system.

Once the waste assessment is completed at a location, the service provider determines what Godoy calls “the usage” of the location—the size and type of waste and recycling bins needed and the frequency of collection. Pickups, Godoy says, are scheduled based on the needs of a multifamily home or business.

“A multifamily residence may need pickups two times per week, while a small business may need once per week,” Godoy says. “[Services] are all going to be very molded toward each location and every one of their needs. It’s going to be more tailored.”

The city plans to complete these assessments within six months, with 15,000 to 25,000 accounts being transitioned to the new system per month.

If multifamily residents or business owners have issues during the transition, Godoy says they can dial 311 or 800-773-2489 at any hour to report them to the LA Sanitation Department.

She adds, “The program has been set up for success in transiting accounts and making sure there is service if something does go wrong.”

Godoy attributes this certainty years of preparation the city has taken to avoid complications, from the original motion in 2010 to the 2016 recommendation by the Board of Public Works and city council and mayoral approval to the current waste assessments.

“It’s been a really long process,” she says. “It was one of those things where the council districts, the mayor and everyone involved realized why this needed to be rolled out flawlessly—it’s such an important issue and such an important service.”

The author is assistant editor of Waste Today and can be reached at hcrisan@gie.net.