Government / Politics

Hollister City Council approves new garbage rates

Deal includes green cart for yard and food waste.
Carts on display by Recology. The green cart is part of the bundle of new rates. Photo by Noe Magaña.

Hollister residents will see changes in their Recology bill starting Nov. 1, as the Hollister City Council approved new rates during its Oct. 1 meeting.

The residential collection rate will increase to $25.00 for the 20-gallon cart, $30 for the 32-gallon cart, $51 for the 64-gallon cart, and $78 for the 96-gallon cart. The increase ranges from 15 cents to $14.77, depending on garbage cart size. The new rate includes yard waste and food scrap monthly collection service.

Recology General Manager Phil Couchee said there were 4,013 accounts that had green yard waste carts in Hollister last year. With the new contract, all 8,800 accounts have the service. For San Juan Bautista, which approved the new rates Oct. 16, the accounts using yard waste service will increase from 216 to 525. The county will see an increase from 1,408 to 4,380 green cart users after the supervisors approved the rate adjustment on Oct. 9.

While several residents voiced their disapproval of the rate increase on social media, others showed their opposition to the green cart becoming mandatory during the council meeting.

Elia Salinas, candidate for the District 3 City Council seat, spoke against Recology for its reputation.

“I was very vocal about Recology not getting the contract,” Salinas said. “I came up here and I was very vocal about the fact that they have a reputation for increasing their prices after they get the contracts, and they denied it. They knew very well that these bills were coming up and I think that they should’ve let us know that this was going to happen to us.”

Hollister and the San Benito County chose Recology over two other bidders, GreenWaste Recovery and RJR Resource Recovery, in April.

Later in the meeting, Mayor Ignacio Velazquez, in response to Salinas’ comment, asked Kevin McCarthy, sustainability programs manager at SCG Consultants, who was involved in contract selection process for waste management, if the prices that were in discussion were part of the original bid submitted by Recology.

McCarthy said pricing of services was a minimal requirement to all companies that submitted a proposal.

Salinas also said she and other residents should be able to opt out from using the green cart if they have minimal waste. It would take Salinas a year to fill the green cart, she said, because she has a gardener and uses her garbage disposal for food scraps.

Other Hollister residents joined Salinas in voicing their disapproval of the green cart requirement.

“My main concern is with that green one, the yard waste,” resident Patty Hill said. “I’m very concerned about fly issues and odor issues, and the ooze that residually settles at the bottom of the containers if I keep it closed.”

Hill said she places her yard clippings in the container and leaves it open in order to keep the layers dry to prevent extensive odor. She also said the only place for her to put the bin is underneath her kitchen window because of the design of her house.

“There is no problem with yard clippings, but when you put proteins and fruits and things like that, you’re laying open to fly strikes,” Hill said. “You’re laying open to odors. That’s the only part I hate.”

Hill continued to say she didn’t have a problem with the new rate, but in trying to solve her concerns, a representative of Recology from Gilroy suggested to sprinkle Borax or to get another small container to place in her home to collect food waste before transferring it to the green bin.

“I don’t know what to do about that,” Hill said. “But if that’s the problem I can’t comply.”

Mayor Velazquez asked the Recology representatives on their recommendation to solve Hill’s concern.

General Manager Phil Couchee said one way was to place food scraps in a paper sack and disposing the sack in the green cart everyday or every other day. Another option Couchee suggested was using a compostable plastic bag.

“That would keep the moisture from the proteins combined and not ooze,” Couchee said.

If residents don’t have a lot of food waste, Couchee said, placing it in the cart will allow the yard waste to absorb a lot of the moisture. The manager’s last suggestion was to call Recology to switch the carts over a period of time if residents could not get the stink out.

Velazquez asked McCarthy to clarify to the public the reasons for the rate increase and why the third cart is part of the bundle.

“The big driver for the change in programs is that there was a law passed, AB 939, that every jurisdiction in the county and the state has to comply with,” McCarthy said. “It’s a 50 percent mandate. 50 percent reduction in waste going to the landfill.”

McCarthy said currently the city is not meeting the 50 percent requirement and it has a “handshake deal” with CalRecycle, the state’s regulatory agency, for the city to be kept off a compliance order as long as Hollister implements programs like the yard and food waste services.

AB 1383 was also recently passed and was another reason the action was taken, McCarthy said, which is about climate pollutants. He added that one of the big identifiers was reducing organic waste from the landfill. The bill requires California to reduce organic waste in the landfill by 50 percent by 2020, and by 75 percent by 2025, McCarthy said.

“By introducing these new programs we are trying to come up to the current standards of the law,” McCarthy said. “We are also going to be able to comply with this new law.”

City Clerk Christine Black said the city received 63 written protest forms before the public hearing deadline of the 4,406 needed from the residents to prevent the council’s approval. There are 8,809 residential accounts, Black was told by Recology.

Increases for multi-family homes and commercial customers range from $14.36 to $23.46 for carts to $49.04 to $121.41 for bins.



Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.