Monday, November 12, 2012

Trash cash: How much could we save?

In the "never get sick of beating a dead horse" post category, and following far more detailed posts (plural, and plural) on the same subject, I thought I'd expand my trash argument by pulling in just a few more general quantitatives. 

Why do this??  Because all of the logical arguments in the world fall short of a headline home-run if we haven't got a number to associate with potentially re-vamping the League City trash contract.  How much cold hard cash could we potentially save??  That is the bottom line we need to know and the exact sound bite everyone needs to hear. 
Is that really a bag of trash sitting beside that blue can?
Or is it actually a bag of money??
Microsoft Office clip art.
So if folks can temporarily set aside the escalating fear and loathing they feel for the federal government and allow me to use a general federal reference on these costs, here's what falls out.

First, may I please allow the federal government to state the obvious by my reproduction of the following quote from that publication:

In spite of the perceived need for twice-per-week collection, studies repeatedly demonstrate that the second collection day is underutilized. 

Translation:  people are simply not using the service.  Feel free to tell folks that you heard it here first.
"especially the South"? 
Like we're a bunch of sun-baked dumb-a**es who are the last to figure this stuff out??
But wait - it gets even better.  Here is another quote:

Keeping Customers Satisfied:  After a 6-month pilot program in Plano, Texas, 92 percent of survey respondents agreed they did not need a second MSW collection day each week. 

Plano's a city with some of the same Texas metroplex bedroom-community character as League City.  If Plano managed to muster enough common sense to snap to this realization, do you think it could possibly be within reach of League City as well??

Anyway, let me curtail the obvious idealogical tangent and proceed with the rudimentary cost analysis.
This is a general cost breakdown graph.
Let us accept at face value that 50% of the costs are incurred during the act of collecting the trash. 
Screengrabbed from this reference.

20121113 POST UPDATE:  I just noticed that this reference is from 1995, when diesel was about $1.10 per gallon, versus $3.28 per gallon as of today.  That makes the cost estimate below VERY conservative, as collection costs must have risen substantially with a tripling of fuel prices.   
Couple that with this bit:

Twenty to forty percent reduction in vehicle and labor costs?  Let's be conservative here and assume that going to a once-per-week scheme would eliminate 30% (i.e., the midpoint of that range) of that 50% collection cost factor.  Viewed roughly this way, going to once per week collection in League City would therefore be expected to result in a $4.5 MILLION savings for the League City taxpayers over the life of this next contract ($30 million current contract value times 50% associated with collection times 30% reduction). 

There's your sound bite number, crudely estimated, but somebody had to do it.

What could we instead buy with four and a half million bucks that would actually furnish lasting value to the city? 
Screengrabbed from the same reference.
If anyone has a better savings estimate, please produce it, because this is important.  Ameriwaste is perhaps the entity most suited to putting a really fine point on that savings number, and I'm saying this not because I want them to receive a new contract but simply because they arguably are in possession of the mother lode of institutional knowledge right now.  And you should never underestimate the goldmine of potential that resides within institutional knowledge. 

Oh, but wait.  If we got our chosen vendor to supply lidded recyclers similar to the one I gussied up with spray paint for my own family, we could similarly cut recycling collection costs by a substantial amount because those lidded things hold far, far more volume.  So this $4.5 million is not nearly the limit of what could potentially be saved.  That actual dollar figure could be significantly higher. 
These things.  They hold so much more than those goofy small bins that we could easily go to a bi-weekly collection scheme if we had them, just like Houston does
So additional cost estimates are eagerly welcome here.  I'd really like to see this post be part of the beginning of the wider dialog, not the end. 
They turned out to be money bags afterall.

1 comment:

  1. "especially the South"?
    I suspect it just means that south needs more frequent pick ups since there are only 2 seasons: not-summer, and summer - the latter which lasts for 9 months and is endlessly hot and humid. Conditions ripe for making garbage rancid asap, and attractive to ants, rats or other 'fun' creatures.
    Up north you can put the garbage out in the naturally refrigerated garage for a week for half the year.


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