The O'Keefe Group


Waste Bill of Rights

Right to Choose Your Recycler

As generator of recyclables, you need the right to send your recyclable waste to facilities that are equipped for full scale recovery. Restricting the flow of recyclables under a national hauler's contract is exactly what has dampened recovery efforts and marketing strategies.

High export prices certainly have heighten everyone's interest in recycling more, but if you are under an exclusive national hauling contract that grants the hauler the exclusive right to own and route your waste as it sees fit, your company is giving up control. Don't let hauling contract restrictions stop you from having a state-of-the-art recycling program.

Right to End a Contract

The waste hauling contract is much more than a service contract. It is the exclusive right to manipulate your waste stream and ultimately the cost you pay. The contract restricts your waste stream for 3 years with an automatic renewal period for another 3 year term. Customers who missed these important notification and anniversary dates have their contracts automatically roll- over even when service and pricing have become unacceptable. These same contracts grant the hauler the right to meet or exceed offers submitted by others at the conclusion of the current term, if it ever ends. The hauler is granted a unilateral right to take away your waste which is now largely recyclable, and pass on any and all costs it says are appropriate for collection, processing, and disposal. Don't sign hauling contracts, use a company purchase order with special terms that meet your needs.

Right to Billing Accuracy

Some costs assessed and charged monthly are not measureable such as fuel used, yet there are fuel surcharge (current known as "fuel charge") formulas that mark up your entire invoice by a percentage solely determined by the hauler's index. The environmental fee is calculated the same way, yet is has nothing to do with transportation. Invoices over the last several years have had 20 to 25 percent mark ups applied to the entire monthly invoice. Haulers need to provide a flat month charge that includes their operating costs and margin. You deserve transparency.

Right to Question Your Bill

If you attempt to dispute and refuse to pay what you feel are erroneous charges or mistakes, you are threatened with service interruption, loss of credit, and once the disputed charges have aged to 90 days, your service is automatically interrupted until payment of the fees or charges in question are paid. If you cancel the hauler based on the service interruption, you are sued for such cancellation. This kind of treatment happens when there is dominance in the market place and the customer is taken for granted, or quite frankly they do not have enough salespeople to provide personalized service. With the right partner, these problems get personal attention.

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Right to Fair Prices

Competitive pricing should be available during the entire contract, not just when the hauler needs to retain your account. One hauler found that a 1% loss of customers is equal to a loss of $14,000,000 in net operating income, so keeping customers "locked down" is the goal.

Right to Know the Source of Cost

How many gallons of fuel does it take my hauler to haul my container? If I am a front-load container customer, what portion of the total fuel cost for that day is attributed to your bill? Does the hauler own the facility where my trash is dumped? For example, when disposal costs go up, who raised them? Is the landfill just another vertically integrated operation of the hauler?

Right to Net Prices

Haulers are marking up quoted prices and calling the higher costs surcharges. But isn't a surcharge temporary in nature? The impression is given that it is purely a pass through of a price increase that is beyond their control. Recently, the word surcharge has been removed. Does this mean the itemization of a pick-up charge justifies more for the service? If it's not a surcharge anymore, why do we have to reference the Department of Energy's On-Highway Diesel Prices? As a Customer, you need to demand that your pricing be quoted as net and final, where applicable. Your price should include the hauler's cost of goods/service, plus their desired margin.

Invoice Auditing

Your should not have to study hauling invoices every month to discern whether you have been over-charged, over-serviced, increased, refunded, or paid salvage fees for recyclables is not productive or possible depending on the size of your company and the of properties you have to manage. The best way to control the tendency of the hauler to charge unscheduled, un-contracted fee is to supersede the hauling agreement with a company purchase order.

Independent Haulers

Why are people afraid of using independent haulers? Independents’ have lower verifiable operating costs. The worst thing an independent hauler can do is miss a pick, which you already tolerate with your national company, until such occasional glitch, you can expect personalized service at an affordable and negotiated price. If the service lapses become to frequent for your operation, your partner can source another hauler to take over because there are no contracts to cancel to restore service.

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Expense or Surcharge

The right to refuse payment of a surcharge or other add-on costs are limited under a three hauling contract. The language in some of these hauling contracts leave the customer with very little recourse to correct pricing policies or business practices it has learned are being used to collect and administer its waste stream.

Right Dispute Admin Fees

What does it cost to post my check? Why do I have to allow a bank debit of my company's checking account just get the trash picked up? Is the hauler a financial institution that I borrowed money from; what makes them think they are entitled to impose this type of payment requirement on small business for which they collect the trash from? What happens if my rate goes up, will they raise the bank debit automatically?

Right to Route Waste

Do to internalization, a policy of most large haulers; waste is routed to their landfills and salvage operations regardless of cost. If a competitive outlet or city franchise is cheaper, it still makes sense for them not to create a third party cost. In many locations, service is takes longer to execute and may cost more. Customers need to retain the right to ship their waste to the lowest cost provider.

Right to Choose Your Disposal Method

What is your recycling recovery rate? Knowing how much of your waste is actually recovered by weight and volume is critical to a sustainable recycling program. Your hauler needs to prove to you that your waste was in fact recycled regardless of cost of handling.

Right to Choose Your Recycler

In those areas of the country where municipalities and counties control the trash collection, you have the right to retain ownership of any waste deemed to have value. In the non-franchise open markets, customers need to retain the rights to those commodities that can be sold to offset handling and hauling costs. Scrap or salvage values belongs to your company. The current standardized hauling contract used by many haulers grants them the exclusive right to those materials without proof of efficiency or recovery rate. Why take their word for it.

Right to be Free from Legal Costs

Why allow the threat of being sued to be part of any working relationship. The hauling contract restricts good managers from addressing quality of service issues because they do not want to be fired for taking action to correct higher pricing and poor service. Consequently, they tolerate, at the company's expense, higher costs and terrible service. Legally rights should be restricted to the right to collect payment for services rendered and billing disputes that have been resolved. Remedies should be narrow and specific.

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Right to Compete

The hauler's agreement asks for the right to compete. Essentially, you have decided there is an alternative to "big trash" and you have followed the letter of the contract regarding termination. You call the hauler to ask them acknowledge receipt of cancellation letter, and this is when the aggravation starts. They want to know everything about the new contract you negotiated and they tell you they can match the lower pricing. You tell them that the process and bid are closed and that you are going with the other company. This is when the "right to compete" clause is invoked. Essentially, they are requiring you to allow them to match the deal you just negotiated in good faith with the other provider, and because they have the right to meet or exceed competitive offers, and you can't cancel. But you are outraged because there were other reasons, intangible ones, for why you chose to make a change. What about the "right to exit"?

Right to a Copy of Your Contract

How many times have signed a hauling contract and never received a copy of it. No wonder why no one in your company can ever find a copy of the hauling contract. If you had a copy, you might have put it in a tickler file for future review. May be you would have been able to stop the automatic renewal from occurring for another 3 years. When you ask the hauler for a copy of your agreement they say they don't have one; that is right up until you send the notice of cancellation, and low and behold they are on phone telling you that you under contract and they want the right to compete. Where was this ability to compete last year or before the last increase?

Right to Damages for Over-Servicing

Occasionally, you will see an invoice that says "snap shot" fees. The snap shot fee includes a photograph of an over-flowing dumpster with instructions that suggest more service is required, plus the extra charge for that over-flow. Do we send the hauler a "snap shot" when our containers are less than half full during the week. Do we request a refund for unused container capacity?

Right to Damages for Over-Charging

After several years of being under a 3 year hauling contract, rates for one reason or another tend to rise over the contract period. You can find yourself paying 25 to 50 percent more depending on the market. Over-charging occurs when you realize containers are not full or schedules were daily and your hauler allowed the inefficiency to continue until it comes to your attention. By then you are over-budget and sore about the lack of waste control. It's not what a partner should do.

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Right to Dispute a Bill

As a roll-off compactor invoice, they never seem to put the unit price of disposal per ton on the bill. If the unit price was there, we would know at a glance whether the price had increased. Only by dividing the disposal charge by the number of tons can you determine the price per ton.

As a front-load invoice, the hauler uses a flat monthly charge. We need the right to calculate our own rates. What is missing from most front-load is the cost per cubic yard. If you knew the cost per cubic-yard, move ups and move downs in service levels could be calculated by you, but most times you have no way to know how they arrived at the new flat monthly charge. Asking for changes to service levels, is an opportunity for the hauler to charge you more because you are essentially altering the quantity of service, but this should not be an opportunity to change your price.

Unfortunately, invoiced costs do not allow much time to examine and dispute an extra or new charge. Disputing and arguing with haulers over invoices that are not the same month over month is a waste of time. It affects operations and accounting by disrupting your financial work-flow. Because the invoicing practices of your hauler are enforced by the 3 year hauling contract, you have almost no rights to dispute the invoiced lines you do not agree with, and even less rights to stop the practice until you manage to cancel without legal technicality.

Right Not To Be Shut-Off

Your company might have a $10,000 per month hauling account at a particular property, and a $1525.00 fuel surcharge it is disputing, but after 90 days your account is placed on suspension, often times without your knowledge. You are now in a crisis which can only be solved by you paying the dispute amount or face over-flowing trash. Essentially, you are forced to pay them against all logic and fair dealings. If you continue disputing the bill during the shut-off period, you run the risk of being shut-down by the board of health.

All notices that service is to be interrupted are mailed with no phone calls from the hauler to make sure that does not happen. No live person or representative will call to ask why you are not paying a particular invoice or charge. The credit and collection department places a service hold on your property without regard for the operational and financial pain it might cause. You have no recourse under your current contract if it does.

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Right to Recycle

Many areas of the country have city or franchised controls hauling areas where the property owner is required to use their service. It create monopoly like conditions. Many property owners are unaware that they have the right to divert their recyclables other processors that do a better job at recovery, recycling, and reuse. Most franchise agreements only govern the disposal of valueless municipal waste (trash). Any residual or by-product of your property's operation that has value and is suitable for the secondary recycling markets is yours to save, store, or sell.

Right to Avoid the Landfill

All too often companies thinking of recycling turn to the biggest trash haulers in the US. Let me say that again "the biggest trash haulers". Most large trash haulers have vertically integrated landfills and incinerators where most their waste goes. If big trash was to divert 50% of its waste stream away from these disposal assets, they would not be so big anymore. Alternative handling, processing, and disposal exists, but don't expect a hauler to share that with you.

Right to Continuing Service

You're under contract and you have been invoiced charges and fees that you have never seen before or that have suddenly increased, so you officially dispute the invoice so that a thoughtful explanation can be provided as to what the new charges are or the reason for their increase. Your right to continuity well resolving a billing dispute should not lead to an untimely and costly interruption in service because exercised right to understand and agree with the charges and fees presented to as costs of collection.

Right to Prevent Pollution

For every ton of solid waste we divert from the landfill for reuse and recycling, we reduce the possibility that the decaying trash will contaminate an aquifer or pollute the air with mercury and other carcinogens.

Right to Recycle Food Waste

Even if your state has not passed a mandatory food waste recycling law, it is still possible to divert food waste away from the landfill or incinerator. Disposal starts with your hauler, recycling starts with the decisions and commitments your make.

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Right to Cancel Contract

As a business owner, you will always have reasons why you need to cancel service. The typical hauling agreement makes it difficult to cancel because it puts conditions on when and how you are able to notify the hauler of your intention not to renew your current contract upon the anniversary. You no longer can provide advance written notice of cancellation, you must wait until you are within 6 months of the anniversary date, and then you can only provide a notice of non-renewal no later than 90 day prior to the anniversary. Confused yet? Best thing to do is removal automatic renewal clauses and remain on a year to year basis, unless it's an equipment lease.

Right to Own or Rent

You do not have to use the hauler's equipment. When a hauler supplies the equipment, another qualified hauler cannot haul their equipment, even though it's a rental in your care and custody. Changing haulers is no easy task when they own the equipment. If they own the equipment, they likely own what's in the container or compactor. By buying or renting your equipment separately, you and your waste manager get control. Under the TOG rental program, you may use the hauler of your choice. We now can take advantage of better costs without the upheaval that comes removing one hauler compactor, and installing another hauler's equipment.

Right to Service without a Contract

Do I need to sign a contract? The hauler will tell you cannot get his discounts without signing a contract. The problem arises after you sign an agreement, prices start rising, and you agreement allows for it during the next three years. Beware of new location price deals, and don't let you hauler sudden drop his price to keep hauling service with you. Both tactics require new hauling agreements that have the same pricing tactics. Unless there is equipment involved that needs to be paid for or is part of an equipment service agreement, then simply issue a Purchase Order with terms that favor you.

Right to Change Haulers

To change haulers is your right. To change haulers when you want come from careful planning and contract renewal date tracking. Decoupling from a contract that favors the hauler's position and profit goals is wise. Guidance is required and available.

Right to Expect 100% Recycling

What is wrong with expecting your hauler to manage the recovery of recyclable waste? First, your hauler makes its money landfilling waste. In fact, as a vertically integrated disposal business, landfilling and incineration are the profit centers. Currently, some 164,000,000 tons of waste go to final disposal. So asking a hauler to divert cash to socialized recycling alternatives, which can cost 2.5 times as much, is going to find resistance. However, the profit model of "big trash" should not concern you. Your goal is to partner with an organization that is incentivized to divert waste and save money.

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