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Santa Rosa taps Recology as new garbage hauler 

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Low rates have long led to big headaches for The Ratto Group, the dominant waste hauler in the county, serving eight of the nine cities plus the unincorporated areas.

The company, founded by Jim Ratto, has been repeatedly criticized for cutting corners in Santa Rosa in ways that resulted in poor customer service, dangerous working conditions for workers, low recycling levels, and an aging fleet of trucks that didn’t live up to its contract with the city.

The curbside collection rates that most Santa Rosa residents pay are set to soar nearly 60 percent under a proposed 15-year contract the city has negotiated with the San Francisco-based garbage company buying its current hauler, The Ratto Group.
The city this week released details of the agreement it has struck with Recology to be the exclusive provider of the garbage, recycling and organic waste pickup services to approximately 55,000 residential and commercial accounts beginning Jan. 1.
If approved by the City Council, the deal is expected to generate $49 million in annual revenues for Recology, or $735 million over the life of the contract. The company would pay the city a 14 percent franchise fee, which would pump $7 million annually into the city’s coffers, or $105 million over the life of the agreement.
The report is the first official confirmation that Recology, one of the largest refuse providers on the West Coast, has survived a competitive and secretive selection process to ink a tentative deal with the city, a fact first reported by The Press Democrat earlier this month.
Read more at: Santa Rosa taps Recology as new garbage hauler | The Press Democrat

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Five bidders for Santa Rosa’s garbage contract

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Five companies are bidding to take over Santa Rosa’s lucrative garbage contract, including the San Francisco firm buying the county’s dominant garbage hauler.
Nine companies had expressed interest in bidding for the exclusive right to collect garbage, recycling and yard waste from Santa Rosa homes and businesses.
But by the time Monday’s 3:30 p.m. deadline arrived, just five companies had submitted bids to the city, said Gloria Hurtado, deputy city manager.
The contract held by The Ratto Group since 2003 runs out at the end of 2017.
“I think five is a really good number,” Hurtado said. “There are some national companies and some more local groups, so I think it’s a good combination.”
The bidders include Recology, the San Francisco-based company which last week agreed to purchase Ratto’s entire North Bay operation, including contracts for eight of the nine Sonoma County cities and its unincorporated areas, plus Novato and West Marin.
Another is Waste Management, the massive Houston-based company that served Santa Rosa for 33 years as Empire Waste Management before James Ratto, using a combination of low rates and political influence, convinced the city to turn the contract over to him. Waste Management subsequently got out of all its contracts in the county.
Also in the hunt are Green Waste Recovery of San Jose, which serves a number of communities in Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Cruz and Monterey counties; Waste Connections Inc., a Toronto-based company with operations in 37 states and Canada; and Sonoma County Resource Recovery, a new partnership about which Hurtado had no additional information, but which sources say includes Marin County garbage interests.
City staff are reviewing the bids, and will schedule interviews with the companies, visit their existing operations and then present their findings to the City Council sometime in April.
Read more at: Five bidders for Santa Rosa’s garbage contract | The Press Democrat

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Santa Rosa-based Ratto Group selling North Bay garbage empire to Recology of San Francisco

Kevin McCallum, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Buyer: Recology
Headquarters: San Francisco
Founded: 1921
Employees: 3,000 (est.)
Owner: 100 percent employee owned

James Ratto, owner of Sonoma County’s dominant but embattled garbage hauler, is selling his waste and recycling empire to a San Francisco-based rival in a multimillion dollar deal that promises to reshape the region’s garbage business.
Ratto on Friday agreed to sell his companies, which handle garbage and recycling services in eight of Sonoma County’s nine cities as well as parts of north Marin County, to Recology, one of the largest solid waste firms on the West Coast.
“He’s getting out of the garbage and recycling business,” Ratto spokesman Eric Koenigshofer said Saturday. “It’s a major event in the history of Sonoma County.”
The deal sets in motion several months of review and calls for Recology to take over Ratto’s entire North Bay garbage operation, including its Santa Rosa recycling facilities, dozens of trucks and a workforce of 440 employees.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. It would bring to a close the remarkable career of an Italian immigrant who began collecting garbage cans on the streets of San Francisco at the age of 16 and through tenacity and competitive drive became rich building and selling solid waste businesses in the North Bay.
Read more at: Santa Rosa-based Ratto Group selling North Bay garbage empire to Recology of San Francisco | The North Bay Business Journal

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Regulators turn up heat on ‘illegal’ North Bay Corp. recycling site

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Regulators appear to be losing patience with Sonoma County’s largest garbage hauler for its continued use of unpermitted Santa Rosa recycling facilities, hiking fines on the company and referring it to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution.
Sonoma County health officials are threatening to levy fines of up to $5,000 per day on North Bay Corp. for operating two recycling facilities on Standish Avenue in defiance of a cease-and-desist order that is now nearly 16 months old.
The company argues it would be “an impossibility” to shut down both facilities because it would prevent the company from picking up curbside recycling.
The beefed up enforcement follows an inspection last month by state waste regulators who noted longstanding problems at the facilities and instructed local officials to turn up the heat on the hauler.
Officials at CalRecycle last week said “immediate enforcement action is required” to address the “illegal operations” on the property, warning that “further extensions to cease operation and correct violations are not appropriate.”
Read more at: Regulators turn up heat on ‘illegal’ North Bay Corp. recycling site | The Press Democrat

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Santa Rosa garbage firm facing millions in fines

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
It’s been a rotten couple of months for the region’s largest garbage hauler.
In September, Sonoma County rejected the North Bay Corp.’s request to operate a regional recycling center in Santa Rosa, upping the stakes in the standoff over the company’s unpermitted Standish Avenue facility.
Then earlier this month, Santa Rosa informed the company that it faces $13.4 million in potential fines from years of alleged contract violations.
While neither action is final, combined they illustrate the increasingly uphill and expensive battle North Bay owner Jim Ratto faces as he struggles to keep his garbage and recycling empire intact.
Company officials say Ratto will need to invest at least $4.5 million to upgrade one of North Bay’s two Santa Rosa recycling centers, both of which have operated for more than a year despite a cease-and-desist order from the county Department of Environmental Health.
To date, the county has fined Ratto $496,500 for running facilities that, because more than 10 percent of the material they take in is not recyclable, need a solid waste permit.
The upgrades, expected to begin next month, will force the company to halt operations for several months and haul recyclable material to other counties while the work is completed, said Eric Koenigshofer, vice president of special projects for the company.
“When we’re all done we’ll have a brand new sorting line and that will make a huge difference,” Koenigshofer said.
Read more at: Santa Rosa garbage firm facing millions in fines | The Press Democrat

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Trash Is getting costly!

Vesta Copestakes, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
I’m old enough to remember before recycling where everything you didn’t want went into the trash can and the local trash service hauled it away…to the dump…a.k.a. landfill which describes a hole or valley everything got dumped into until it filled up.
Then recycling came along and we sorted our trash by category and felt good knowing it would have a second life. Trash men would throw the contents of our bins into trash/recycling trucks divided into categories.  “Single stream” came along about the same time trash trucks were designed to pick up trash mechanically…no people jumping off and on the truck as it rolled down the road. Recycling now gets sorted at the facility owned by the trash company – not us sorting it at home.
We trust our trash service to take care of what we throw away. We complain when they raise our rates, but out-of-sigh…out-of-mind applies here.
Several Sonoma County cities have contracts with local provider Ratto Group – known as North Bay Corp., or Redwood Empire Disposal, and other names depending upon the city it serves.  They are known for their low rates, but also for their less-than-ideal service as well. Sometimes the two go hand-in hand.
“When a complaint was made to the State, late last year, Sonoma County Environmental Health did an inspection of North Bay Corp recycling facility, and issued a Cease and Desist order after finding the facility out of compliance and lacking the appropriate permits.
The Cease and Desist order, issued last fall, was intended to shut down the North Bay Corp. recycling facility on Standish Avenue where all North Bay Corp. affiliates deliver single stream, or blue can materials. For years, the facility skirted the requirement for a Solid Waste Facility Permit by claiming that the residual, or contamination level, was under 10%. But following the complaint, the subsequent inspection determined that nearly 30% of the incoming material was garbage, and not recycling.
The company continues to receive daily fines as they seek to legalize their operations on Standish Avenue.
More recently, the Santa Rosa deputy city manager hired R3 Consulting Group to do a Performance Review of North Bay Corporation, and what they found revealed problems company-wide.
Read more at: Trash Is Getting Costly!

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Recycler fined for garbage-filled Santa Rosa centers

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The company has blamed people who throw garbage into recycling bins for the excessive waste material contaminating its recycling stream. They say the trend toward smaller garbage bins, which are less expensive, has exacerbated the problem.

Sonoma County health officials have begun fining the region’s largest waste hauler for failing to clean up the garbage that is accumulating at its Santa Rosa recycling centers.
The county this week accused the North Bay Corp. of violating the cease and desist order it issued against the company Aug. 28.
The order instructs the company to immediately stop hauling recyclable material contaminated with garbage to its recycling facilities on Standish Avenue without the proper permits.
North Bay officials last week submitted a plan for cleaning up its operations, which includes seeking the proper permits, public education, encouraging employees to report violations, and sending contaminated waste to another facility in Petaluma and ultimately out of the county.
But the county cited “significant shortcomings” with the plan, and began issuing fines against the company of $250 per day after Aug. 28 and $500 per day after Sept. 12. That amounts to $6,750 in fines to date. The fines ramp up from there, increasing to $1,500 per day beginning Oct. 1, $3,000 beginning Nov. 1, and $5,000 beginning Dec. 1.
Read more at: Recycler fined for garbage-filled Santa Rosa centers | The Press Democrat

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Sonoma County tells waste hauler North Bay Corp. to clean up trash piles

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

North Bay Corp. representatives have made no secret of the challenges they face from people putting garbage in blue recycling bins. They told county inspectors that about 50 percent of the material being collected in the curbside bins is non-recyclable.

Sonoma County’s health department has issued a cease and desist order against a Santa Rosa recycling center over the large piles of trash that have been accumulating at its Santa Rosa facility.

The county Department of Health Services issued the Aug. 28 order against North Bay Corp., a division of the Ratto Group, the county’s dominant waste hauler, for two recycling sites on opposite sides of Standish Avenue just south of the city.

The order stems from a complaint the county received early last month that the company was operating an illegal solid waste facility. Officials investigated and found massive piles of garbage inside buildings and uncovered outside.

Recycling facilities in the state are allowed to operate without the stringent regulations on solid waste facilities as long as three conditions exist, explained Christine Sosko, the county’s environmental health and safety director. Material must be separated for reuse; no more than 1 percent of that waste can be “putrescible,” or prone to rotting; and no more than 10 percent can be “residual waste,” meaning anything that’s not recyclable — essentially garbage.

Inspectors, after visiting the sites and consulting with the operators, found that a facility at 3400 Standish Ave., Empire Recycling, was processing 21 percent garbage, while a North Bay Corp. facility across the street at 3417 Standish was processing 27 percent garbage, according to the order.

Inspectors noted birds and rats crawling across mounds of recyclables and garbage 12 feet deep and piles of tires intending for recycling. Recycled material and garbage also had been pushed together, and broken areas of concrete made it difficult to clean surfaces, Sosko said.

If the problems aren’t cleared up, North Bay Corp. could be hit with fines for violating the solid waste permit rules, which the county is required to enforce on behalf of CalRecycle, the state waste agency. The county can levy fines of up to $5,000 per day, Sosko said.

Source: Sonoma County tells waste hauler North Bay Corp. | The Press Democrat

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Garbage hauler Ratto Group seeking rate hike to cover recycling losses

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County’s dominant garbage and recycling company is seeking temporary rate increases of about $1 per month to offset what it says are millions in expected losses from its troubled recycling business.
The Ratto Group is trying to convince local leaders to allow the company to boost garbage rates between 4 percent and 10 percent for its 145,000 residential and commercial accounts in eight Sonoma County cities and the unincorporated county areas.
Though the increase is small, it comes on the heels of a significant rate hike in April related to the recent takeover of the county landfill by Republic Services.If approved, the various increases would raise more than $4.5 million in additional revenue for the company, money it says it desperately needs because the bottom has fallen out of the market for recycled materials.
“We need a little help for a year,” said Eric Koenigshofer, the former county supervisor who represents the company. “Something has happened outside of our community that has had a very significant impact on the financial arrangements we have for providing services to our community.”
The move is in response to what the company says are three major challenges facing its recycling programs.
One is the deeply depressed pricing worldwide for bulk recycled materials, such as the huge bundles of mixed paper, crushed soda cans and cardboard the company ships overseas.
Another is shipping challenges caused by major disruptions at West Coast ports, particularly Oakland. The huge backlog of material created by the work stoppages prevents delivery overseas and depresses prices further. The company’s recycling facilities are literally overflowing with mountains of recycled material that it can’t ship until the logjam is cleared.
Finally, there has been a marked increase in people thoughtlessly contaminating the recycling stream with raw garbage. The problem is more than a little peanut butter stuck to the side of a jar or cheese clinging to the top of the cardboard pizza boxes, company officials said.
Read more at: Garbage hauler Ratto Group seeking rate hike to | The Press Democrat