For the past 18 months, some Bridgeville residents have complained that the borough’s new trash collection provider, County Hauling, damages garbage cans, leaves debris scattered in the streets, and misses some stops entirely.
The unhappy Bridgeville residents aren’t alone, it seems. County Hauling has been criticized for similar issues in some other Pittsburgh-area communities recently.
A New Kensington councilman told the Tribune-Review that residents in his community would gladly pay more for trash pick-up if it brought better service than what County Hauling has provided. Some people in Shaler and Reserve townships have voiced similar sentiments on community discussion boards:
Meanwhile, in Bridgeville, borough officials are acutely aware of public sentiment regarding garbage collection.
“We hear your complaints,” said borough council president Bill Henderson. “We feel your pain and we are constantly evaluating our options.”
However, municipalities can’t just hire and fire trash collectors the way that you might switch from Comcast to Verizon. To prevent fraud and favoritism, state law requires that government agencies award contracts through a bidding process, with the job going to the “lowest responsible bidder.”
Terminating a contract awarded through this process would require a municipality to definitively prove that the contract has been violated, which could open the door for a legal battle. In other words, it can be done, but it’s not easy and not without risk.
And in Bridgeville, residents might be at fault for at least some of the collection issues characterized as “missed stops” or “they didn’t take my recycling.”
County Hauling became Bridgeville’s trash contractor in January 2019 after underbidding three other firms, including Waste Management, which previously handled local garbage pickup.
|CONTRACTOR||Cost Per Household 2019||Cost Per Household 2020||Cost Per Household 2021||Cost Per Household 2022||Cost Per Household 2023|
|Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill, LLC (dba County Hauling)||$192.91||$196.77||$200.71||$204.72||$208.82|
|Waste Management of PA, Inc.||$210.84||$213.00||$217.32||$223.80||$232.80|
|BFI Waste Services||$205.68||$211.80||$218.16||$224.76||$231.48|
|Valley Waste Services, Inc.||$219.24||$225.84||$232.68||$239.76||$246.96|
County Hauling’s Bridgeville debut was… not smooth. Shortly after Bridgeville’s then-manager, Lori Collins, started tracking resident complaints, relaying them to County Hauling, and meeting monthly with the company’s management.
The volume of complaints ebbed and flowed in the following months and as of this spring, had dipped from the prior year.
“We have met with County Hauling management numerous times over the past year, and we have seen some improvements as the result of our increased communication,” Henderson said.
Although the increased scrutiny has yielded some positive results, Henderson acknowledges that it has also created additional work for borough employees—work that wasn’t necessary in the past.
“This isn’t a part of what we’re paying for, so we are trying to place the burden back on [County Hauling] to get things right,” he said. “Right now, we’re striving for consistency from them. We’ll have a good week, then a bad week, and so on.”
Although it’s easy to blame County Hauling for any and all trash collection problems, there is another group that deserves at least some of the blame—Bridgeville residents.
Some people expect refuse workers to haul away anything and everything that is left on the curb—construction debris, uprooted trees, old cans of paint.
The most common offense is probably the pizza box stuffed into the recycling bin. Grease-stained boxes are not recyclable. Neither are most paper coffee cups. Similarly, glass is no longer considered recyclable and must be put in a standard trash can.
“In fairness, we have a ways to go as a community to follow the refuse instructions,” Henderson said.
That’s a problem that goes beyond Bridgeville, though. “Aspirational recyclers” are the bane of the refuse/recycling business, as a few items can contaminate an entire truckload of recycled items.
If refuse workers spot a pizza box or some Starbucks cups in a recycling, they can’t be expected to go through and individually pick out the offending items.
Educating people about what does and doesn’t belong in the trash has been a vexing problem an industry that has tried everything—website, social media campaigns, direct-mail flyers. The bottom line is that people just don’t want to read about trash, but they do want answers when their trash isn’t picked up.
As far as Bridgeville residents’ legitimate complaints about trash collection—broken cans, trash strewn about, streets entirely missed—it’s clear that there have been problems.
But it’s worth noting that Facebook comments aren’t a scientifically accurate portrait of a community’s overall attitude toward trash collection. People satisfied with their trash pickup generally don’t rush out to discuss it online, although some people have shared some positive experiences about County Hauling: