PA faces big choice about garbage next spring

'PASCO Sam' may be about to retire

Early next year Palo Alto will face an unprecedented choice: It must find a new garbage collector and recycler. The cartoon mascot "PASCO Sam" may be about to retire.

After 56 years of trash collection service by the Palo Alto Sanitation Co. (PASCO), the city will be in need of a new refuse hauler, Public Works Director Glenn Roberts told the City Council Monday night.

It should select one by next July, he said.

At more than $80 million over eight-plus years, the contract is the "most significant" issue in his 15 years with the city, Roberts said.

The chance to negotiate a new contract will offer the opportunity to work toward the city's waste-reduction goals, he said.

But it also poses 12 significant challenges.

Roberts said he will ask the council to make a series of decisions at its Oct. 29 meeting. No vote was scheduled Monday night.

He said issues include the nearly $4 million cost by 2011 of increased recycling, composting and other zero-waste efforts; the desire to protect existing employees; and the need to supplement PASCO's current space on Geng Road.

Although 50 percent of residents currently utilize PASCO's unconventional side-yard or backyard pickup, the staff is recommending charging extra for that service in the future, Roberts said.

He said the contract would also include incentives for the hauler to help reduce the amount of waste produced.

Council members Dena Mossar and Jack Morton cautioned against pursuing regional rather than local solutions to waste removal.

"To the extent we keep things here there are greater incentives for us to do better," Mossar said.

PASCO was purchased by the national firm Waste Management in 1998. Roberts said the city is pleased overall with the service but is having several contract disputes with the company.

The city is having a "vigorous disagreement' about the ownership of the trucks when the contract expires in June 2009, City Attorney Gary Baum told the council.

The request for bids will be released in January 2008, Roberts said. The new contractor should be selected by July 2008 to allow time for a smooth transition in service, he said.

Roberts said about three major companies and several local companies could vie to haul Palo Alto's trash.

He said he has not received any indication whether or not Waste Management is planning to bid. But he said the company is generally focusing on landfill management and waste processing rather than collection in the Bay Area.

(Staff Writer Becky Trout can be e-mailed at


Like this comment
Posted by Casey
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2007 at 9:55 pm

This I don't get. The compost and recycling cans are standardized, but some people have the black, square-ish Palo Alto garbage cans and others use the Home Depot/OSH/Lowe's round variety. Seems quite inefficient to have different garbage cans in the neighbor, some which can be dumped mechanically and others that have to be manually dumped. If all houses used the black, square-ish ones, wouldn't we reduce workers' compensation claims and the risk of repetitive stress injuries by not having our workers manually dump the garbage into the truck?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 2, 2007 at 10:34 pm

Quotes from the web link:

"Issues include the nearly $4 Million cost by 2011 of increased re-cycling". I don't remember that cost being revealed when we went over to the new recycling system.

"The City is having a vigorous disagreement about the ownership of the trucks". Expect the city to cave and give those trucks away!!!!

Why do I have such little faith in our Utility Department?

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2007 at 11:04 am


To answer your question, we have only had the present cans a couple of years. When they came, to a great fanfare, all households were given the green and blue with an offer of a black if you so desired. You had to opt to get one but it was up to you to make the choice. If you didn't respond, you got neither. We had just bought a new one so decided not to get a black one. When we saw the efficient way the cans were emptied we changed our mind and called PASCO and within a couple of weeks, a black one was delivered. Anyone who hasn't had a black one already, can call and get one. It will take a couple of weeks, but it will come. Neighbors have since done the same and they do come.

It does make sense for us all to use the provided cans rather than our own. It also makes sense for us to put them out properly with the right side facing the street. It does help PASCO and it does look neater.

The only thing I would ask PASCO to do is to replace them neatly. I walk to our neighborhood school after our collection and the sidewalks are an obstacle course with cans left anyhow blocking the sidewalk. This makes it difficult for pedestrians, and must be horrific for anyone pushing a stroller.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 3, 2007 at 1:26 pm

With heavy lifting no longer a requirement, will we finally see women join this lucrative career?
And will we finally see Palo Alto join some Pacific Northwest cities and rail ship containerized garbage to the Northwest deserts?Probably not.

Like this comment
Posted by heavy lifting
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2007 at 4:35 pm

re: women
That's right, Walter. And they can push the retirement age back by a few years, too.

Like this comment
Posted by CH Ncider
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2007 at 3:43 pm

'Issues include the $4 million......." Please - do you believe everything you read in the paper or think they get it right everytime?

That cost was NOT included in the discussion or approved. It was likely extracted from a previous story about the long range potential costs of Zero Waste programs post Palo Alto landfill closure in 2011 up to 2021. The Council had then said they wanted to review those costs and programs further on a case by case basis prior to approval.

I guess it's just really fun for some folks to over react act blame the City for incorrect assumptions when they don't even have the facts straight. Wonder if they can get away with that on their jobs?

Like this comment
Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2007 at 3:55 pm

The reason I did not opt for the offered black can and continued to supply my own was that if you supplied your own, they would still retrieve it from the sideyard which is handy when you go on vacation.
In the offer, it stated the black can is required to be curbside to be picked up.

Like this comment
Posted by D Riley
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 10, 2008 at 11:50 am

I don't really like the mascot - good riddance.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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