Posted: 12:00 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012

Competition causes trash rates to drop in area cities

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Competition causes trash rates to drop in area cities photo
Nick Daggy
Todd Truman collects trash along his route in Fairfield. Following Mason’s lead, Fairfield has negotiated a deal with Rumpke to lower trash rates significantly.
Competition causes trash rates to drop in area cities photo
Nick Graham
Rumpke employee Dwayne Buckley collects recycling along South Main Street in Middletown.

By Eric Robinette

Staff Writer

Competition in the trash hauling business has allowed local residents to take less money out of their wallets to take out the trash.

For many years, Cincinnati’s Rumpke has been the go-to company for waste removal services. But now that Rumpke is beginning to see more competition, trash haulers are offering area cities lower rates as contracts are renewed, officials said.

Fairfield was able to renegotiate with Rumpke this year, with new, lower rates taking effect this month.

“Our next five years are actually less - a lot less than we’re currently paying. We were paying $14 a month for residential, single-family unit. And it goes down to $11.45 a month”on Sept. 1, said Dave Butsch, the city’s director of Public Works.

The only change in the actual service is that, on request, residents will be able to have a 65-gallon container for recyclable material, and that is offered at no extra charge, he added.

Considering trash rates typically increase, the reduction was a refreshing change.

“It”s not at all (typical). It was timing, really. We had contacted the city of Mason. Mason had put out a bid for waste hauling, and when we saw their prices, we told Rumpke we wanted comparable prices,” Butsch said.

Earlier this year, Mason had put its waste pickup contract out for bid, said the assistant city manager, Jennifer Heft. Three companies responded with bids: Rumpke, CSI and Forest Green. The latter two also have bases in Southwest Ohio. Rumpke came back with the lowest bid, of $11.45 a month — a reduction from $13.32. Mason was also offered the larger recycle containers.

“I had not heard of Forest Green. They were basically a new hauler since our last bid process. And I think they added more competition,” Heft said.

Butsch found a similar situation, saying “Rumpke was pretty much the only game in town. CSI and other waste haulers are starting to come into the area, so it created more competition.”

In fact, a switchover from Rumpke to Forest Green caused some consternation in Monroe last year. Jeff Rumpke, a vice president with that company, said the city’s request for bidders was faulty, an assessment that Councilman Steve Black agreed with. However, council voted 4-3 to make the change to Forest Green, based in Harrison. Forest Green is charging Monroe $10.90 a month for their service, whereas Rumpke had been charging $12.80.

Forest Green, which was founded in 1987, “just starting expanding out and doing some city bids in the last year,” said its general manager, Wendell Shelton, who has been trying to grow the business. Forest Green has about 15,000 subscription customers in the greater Cincinnati area; Monroe is the only city with which it has a contract, he said.

However, Fairfield is happy with Rumpke. As best as Butsch knows, the city has never used another waste hauler.

“We’ve been really happy with Rumpke’s service. We really don’t want to change waste haulers, because you go through a big education process where they learn our city, so we got comparable rates. We felt that was pretty good.”

Fairfield’s rates will eventually increase to $12.25, but “that’s still $1.75 less than we’re paying right now. And that’s in five years,” Butsch said.

Other area cities are seeing savings as well. Trenton’s new three-year contract has residents paying $20.08 a month for the next year, which is $2.05 cheaper than the option year agreement on the previous contract.

Middletown is in the year of a three-year contract that also includes two option year renewals. Residents currently pay $14.25 for trash collection only,

Rumpke, which has been in business since 1932, is making a conscious effort to remain competitive in the market — and that includes lowering prices, said Amanda Pratt, the communications director for the company.

“We’re always looking at opportunities to reduce the cost or the burden on our customers, and at the same time, be able to build in enough cost that we can properly serve the customer. It’s quite a balancing act,” she said.

Shelton recognizes Rumpke’s dominance in the area, calling it “a great company. They’ve been around forever, and I have a lot of respect for them. But on the other hand, competition is good.”

Pratt said at Rumpke, “We’ve been doing this now for 80 years … a competitive marketplace is really not new to us. We always try go in and offer a low-cost option to our customers, but an option we know we can provide that’s going to be excellent. We really pride ourselves on offering an exceptional service and doing so at a fair price.”

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