How Los Angeles socialized recycling... and ruined it

One of the major challenges facing Los Angeles, as with every other large city, is how to get rid of all the trash and recycling. For a very long time, the City of Angels actually did an admirable job of dealing with both and L.A. was really a respectably clean place. Then the municipal government took a look at the situation and decided that it simply wasn’t good enough. After years of planning, they came up with a scheme known as RecycLA which would “improve” the city’s green footprint, deal with recycling more efficiently and ensure that people working in that industry were all earning a “living wage” for their efforts. And they’d do it all while saving money in the process.

Does the phrase, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” leap to anyone else’s mind?

As the Los Angeles Times reports, not long after the full launch of RecycleLA, things quickly turned into what could charitably be referred to as a dumpster fire.

RecycLA, which serves businesses and apartment and condo complexes, was in the planning stages for years but has had what a kind person might call a bumpy rollout.

Others have called it a disaster, a ripoff and a mess. One property manager I spoke to Tuesday had a thought as to who might be in charge.

“This is just literally like the Three Stooges,” said Robert Kilian, who works for Cardinal Management Group and handles the business affairs of 22 homeowner associations in Los Angeles — most of which have had problems with late pickups or price hikes.

Kilian said the 12 homeowners in Hajibekyan’s building had been paying $389 a month for hauling, but that the new bill is more than double that — $825.

There have been reports of costs tripling and even quadrupling for other customers, due in part to added fees tacked on.

Just read some of the stories of apartment complex managers in that article. It’s truly astounding. Back when the trash and recycling were all handled by private companies in a competitive bidding system, recycling was picked up twice a week. Now they are waiting up to two weeks or even more for a pick-up. Trash is building up in the basements and parking garages of these properties like rat-infested mountains. And the prices they are paying have at least doubled, sometimes going up to four times the previous cost. Service is down, costs are up and property managers are angry.

So what went wrong, aside from the fact that the government decided to take over managing the show? The Times reports that the city was faced with the choice of, “maintaining a level of competition among haulers, or they could award exclusive contracts to haulers for designated sectors of the city.” Which one do you think they went with?

So there you have it. The City mandated a number of changes which removed competition, raised labor costs and micromanaged how much recycling would be done. And now there are steaming mountains of garbage in businesses, apartments and condo complexes around the city and the owners are being charged vastly increased costs. Well done, Los Angeles. You’ve really struck a blow for environmental justice, fair wages and a cleaner city.