Richmond council votes in favor of litter fee

A garbage with litter nearby at Nicholl Park in Richmond. (Photo: Mike Kinney)

Garbage collection rates are set to increase in Richmond next year after City Council on Tuesday approved a plan to raise about $1.3 million in annual revenue to address the city’s vexing litter problem.

The council voted 6-1 in favor (with Councilmember Nat Bates voting against) of a staff proposal to increase the city’s franchise fee for solid waste collection services with Republic Services from 10 percent to 17.5 percent, which will lead to increases in monthly rates for homes and businesses. The new rate, about 3 percent higher than the current county average, is expected to appear before council for adoption late this year, according to Adam Lenz, Richmond’s Environmental Services Manager.

How that will impact customers: Residents subscribing to 35-gallon cart service, which accounts for over 80 percent of Richmond residential customers, will pay an additional $2.07 on their monthly solid waste collection bill, according to city staff.

The estimated $1.3 million in annual revenue generated by the fee would go into the City Manager’s Office Environmental Quality Fund and be used to augment the city’s efforts to prevent and abate litter, according to city staff.

In July 2016, the council directed staff to pursue a litter fee study, which led to the hiring of a consultant to identify a way to raise funds without having to pass a tax measure through voters.

The idea for a litter fee began as part of the solution to Richmond’s forecast of budget deficits in the coming years. Currently, litter abatement efforts are paid for through Richmond’s general fund.

The new litter fee is also aimed at supporting Richmond’s efforts to comply with ambitious state mandates for solid waste diversion and stormwater trash reduction, city staff said.

Garth Schultz, representing R3 Consulting Group, noted that Richmond has already taken a number of steps to combat the litter problem, from prohibitions on plastic products at local businesses to expansions of recycling, composting and bulky item collections programs. But the city’s litter problem remains pervasive, he said.

Funds from the new fee could be used to add street sweeper personnel, increase illegal dumping prevention and abatement efforts, swap out old garbage cans around the city with more Bigbelly units that provide for greater capacity and litter prevention, and add to street signage and free mattress drop off events. One idea would install more water fountains in parks to reduce the need to bring water bottles, which can end up filling up the garbage cans or becoming litter.

A breakdown of the recommended uses for the new litter fee revenue: