May 17, 2022 - News

Atlanta's solid waste rates could get an overhaul

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

City Hall is preparing to get their hands dirty and decide for the second time since 2019 how much — and how — residents should pay for trash pick-ups, recycling collections and street sweeping.

Why it matters: Solid waste service like garbage collection ranks high up there with police and fire protection and well-paved streets and sidewalks when it comes to city services.

  • And the city’s not collecting enough revenue to send garbage to landfills and provide "special services" like emptying public trashcans and mowing grass in medians — programs that cost roughly $80 million every year.

Driving the news: The city is required to study and change its solid waste rate system after striking a $19 million settlement with tens of thousands of condo and commercial property owners.

How it (could) work: The administration is considering three options to pay for special services, deputy chief operating officer Jason Ingram told an Atlanta City Council work session last week.

  1. The first option would base a person's solid waste bill on the value of their property.
  2. The second option would pay for special services out of the city’s general fund — a cost of roughly $20 million each year.
  3. Department staff told council members a third option — one that’s based on the number of trips a truck makes to an address to provide a service — could be too complex to pursue.

The city will also address fees for garbage and recycling pick-ups.

Catch up quick: Atlanta's solid waste services range from picking up garbage and yard clippings to bigger tasks like cleaning up dumped tires and couches on the side of the road and scooping up dead animals.

What they’re saying: Council member Mary Norwood questioned why residents have to pay millions of dollars for the clean-up of vacant properties and illegal dumping.

"Maybe I didn't do enough drugs in high school, but I still don’t understand the nexus between the value of your property and how much trash you generate and how many dead squirrels get picked up somewhere," said Council member Howard Shook, who represents parts of Buckhead.

What’s next: The city must adopt the changes before the next bill cycle, Council member Dustin Hillis said. Expect more discussion from council members in the coming weeks.


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