Republic Services promises Carlsbad a smooth trash transition

Republic Services employees did their best this week to assure Carlsbad city officials that all will be well when the company takes over the city’s trash contract on July 1.

The strike that interrupted the collection of refuse, recyclables and yard waste for Chula Vista and parts of San Diego was “an anomaly” made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Mike Celaya, a senior manager at Republic, in an update on the transition at the Carlsbad City Council meeting last week.

The month-long walkout ended when a new contract was signed Jan. 17 after weeks of difficult negotiations over wages and benefits, along with public health concerns about trash piled in the streets. The union that represented the 250 South Bay truck drivers in their strike, Teamsters Local 542, is different from the one that will represent Carlsbad drivers, Celaya said.

“A work stoppage in the city of Carlsbad is highly unlikely,” he said. “I assure you that throughout the past month our progress on the Carlsbad transition has continued at full strength and on target.”

Carlsbad will have about 40 Republic drivers and the company “will have a crew in place and ready if anything happens,” he said.

Carlsbad awarded a 10-year, $27.7 million contract to Republic in April on a 3-2 vote with Mayor Matt Hall and Councilmember Keith Blackburn opposed. The only other bidder was Edco Disposal. Workers at the two companies are represented by different unions.

Previously, the Carlsbad contract was held by Waste Management, another national trash-hauling company, but that deal will expire June 30 and the company did not submit a bid to continue the service.

Republic will have to meet new state regulations that for the first time require the recycling of food scraps and other organic waste, which residents will place in bins with yard waste.

Organic waste makes up about half of all material currently sent to landfills in the state, and as it decomposes it creates methane gas that harms the atmosphere. The new laws will divert more of that waste into reuse and recycling.

Republic will process Carlsbad’s organics in a composting facility at the company’s Otay Landfill near Chula Vista, said Jim Groen, general manager for the North County region.

The company is buying 39 new collection trucks and 75,000 residential bins to replace the ones now used in Carlsbad. All the trucks will be powered by compressed natural gas.

“You will begin to see the residential carts moving in and exchanged in the spring,” Groen said.

Republic will hire about 40 drivers for Carlsbad, he said. Some of them will be the same people now driving the routes for Waste Management.

“We intend to bring on as many familiar faces as possible,” Groen said.

Asked if the company could switch to electric collection trucks, he said that’s unlikely to happen soon. The company is testing electric trucks in some parts of the country.

Trash trucks use a lot of power because they are often on the street up to 11 hours a day and use complicated hydraulic systems, he said. However, they are a possible long-term solution for reducing emissions.