Palm Coast Threatens Waste Pro with Litigation and Fines It $125 For Every Recycling Bins It’s Taking Back
At worst, it looks like retaliation. At best, it’s puzzling for a company that claims to “never throw away an opportunity to show our gratitude.”
Waste Pro, in its final week as Palm Coast’s garbage hauler, is driving through neighborhoods with a flatbed truck and taking back the recycling bins it freely provided residents over the years. The seizures are in apparent violation of city code. The city considers them a violation of the company’s contract.
The city is fining Waste Pro $125 for every bin the company is taking, citing city code, which prohibits the removal of bins without the city’s authorization. The city is also considering litigation against Waste Pro. Neysa Brkert, the city attorney, said she could not go into details about the case because of “this potentially pending action that may result.”
“The understanding was always that the bins belong to the residents, but waste Pro today started picking up all of the bins, claiming they own the bins,” Brittany Kershaw, the city’s communications director, said. “We’ve had some legal dialogue going on over the pasts several days between our attorney and their attorney about the ownership of the bins. We did not know hat they had planned to collect the bins today.”
Nothing in the contract states that the bins would be repossessed. Residents never signed documents intimating that they would have to give back the bins. In the 16 years Waste Pro has been the local hauler, thousands of residents have moved out of town, taking the bins with them. Thousands have moved in with bins of their own. It’s not clear how Waste Pro is distinguishing between one and the other as it picks them up.
Over the years, the city has told residents that they could keep their bins. “Now we’re at the point where we have to collaborate on a new plan to give residents new bins,” Kershaw said.
It was always FCC Environmental plan to provide bins to some residents, like new tenants or to those who need replacements. But there was no plan for a wholesale replacement, which would be expensive and time consuming.
Waste Pro did not respond to questions emailed its communications manager before this article initially published. In a full-page ad in the Observer today, the company said the city “chose a new provider for its residents. At Waste Pro, we never throw away an opportunity to show our gratitude.” It then said, without additional explanation: “Please be patient as the city works through replacing your recycling bins.”
The message does not explain why the company is hauling off the bins, or what residents are expected to do with their recycling meanwhile. Most residents use the bins during the week to store their recyclables.
“There was nothing in the contract that said these bins are going to be collected upon termination and taken back from city residents,” Borkert said.
The contract with Waste Pro does not spell out explicitly whether residents own the bins. But the bins were purchased on behalf of residents and given out to them free: two bins per household, with a third bin or more provided at a cost. Since some residents paid for their bins, it creates yet more dubious instances where purchased bins–which would unquestionably be the residents’ own–would have been hauled away, since purchased bins were not distinguished from those freely provided.
“We have been fining Waste Pro all day today for each bin that they collect because it is stated in their contract that they will return the bins to the areas where they picked up for collection,” Kershaw said. Code enforcement is keeping track of the civil fines.
The city issued a more neutral-sounding press release earlier this afternoon, informing residents that bins are being collected by Waste Pro, with new bins to be delivered, imprinted with the city’s logo.
Residents in need of a replacement recycling bin, the release states, are encouraged to submit a case by visiting palmcoast.gov/connect. Once on the site, select “Create a Case” > “Trash” > “Recycling” > “Concern/Question.” Residents may also call Customer Service at 386-986-2360 or email [email protected].
During the implementation process, residents who may be awaiting a new recycling bin can utilize a container from home to hold recyclables. An example of a temporary recycling bin may be a plastic tub, a cardboard box, or a laundry basket. Please clearly mark the personal bins with the words “Recycle” in order to avoid confusion with regular garbage waste. Proper labeling will help the residential collections team effectively identify and collect recyclable materials.
Each residence is allowed 35 gallons of recycled materials each week, and the bins being delivered will hold 18 gallons of recyclables, which is the standard size.
The release also suggests that if residents are interested in a larger bins, recycling containers are available for purchase at local hardware stores and supercenters.
During the 2016 bidding process, a question was asked through the city website’s procurement portal about recycling bins, and the answer, by an unnamed staffer, suggested that the bins belonged to the provider. The company is relying on that documentation to make its stand.