What is a contracted system?

    In a contracted system, haulers compete for the chance to provide service to all single-family, duplex, and small multifamily homes (with seven or fewer units) in a neighborhood. The contract provides the city the option to obtain curbside collection services at “bulk rate” prices for households. Households that want to use a different hauler can pay an opt-out fee. Communities in Colorado and across the U.S. have found that this type of system reduces the number of trucks in residential neighborhoods, makes prices more consistent, and increases opportunities for recycling and composting.

    What other systems exist for city trash and recycling collection?

    In addition to a contracted system, there are three other systems cities can use to manage trash and recycling collections for households.

    • Pure Open Market: Each household chooses their own hauler for trash and recycling collection. Local government does not play a role in this system.
    • Open Market with Licensing (Fort Collins’ current system): Each household chooses their own licensed hauler for trash and recycling collection. The local government issues the licenses and may include requirements such as offering recycling and compost collection.
    • Contracted System (system being considered for Fort Collins): A local government contracts with one or more companies to provide residential trash and recycling collection.
    • City Hauling Utility:A city owns and operates their own hauling utility using city staff, resources and equipment.

    Pure Open Market: The government is not involved in a pure open market system. Local examples are Wellington and Estes Park. In this system, haulers provide trash service and may or may not offer recycling service, or other additional services. Recycling is generally an opt-in service and customers pay a separate fee to recycle.

    Open Market with Licensing: Fort Collins currently has an open market system that requires haulers to get a license from the City in order to provide households with curbside services. Households shop for and choose their own haulers. Through the license, Fort Collins requires haulers to provide data about the materials collected in Fort Collins and to follow the Pay-As-You-Throw system (in which the cost for collection services is based on the size of the trash cart and recycling service is offered at no additional cost for up to two 96-gallon recycling carts).

    The Fort Collins community has had as many as six and as few as three haulers in the past 25 years. Any hauler can receive a license to operate within the community. There are currently three nationally-owned haulers (Waste Management, Republic Services and Waste Connections), and a small start-up hauler (Mountain High Disposal) licensed to provide services to Fort Collins households. Timberline Waste is no longer in business.

    Municipal hauling utility: Some cities do their own trash and recycling collection using city staff, equipment, and resources. Loveland is an example of a local municipal trash and recycling system. Fort Collins City Council is not exploring this model.

    Why is Fort Collins considering moving to a contracted system?

    The City is considering this system to address community-raised concerns about having multiple trash trucks in the same neighborhood multiple times a week, make pricing for trash and recycling services equitable throughout the City, and decrease waste by having more opportunities to recycle and compost more. A contracted system provides an opportunity to receive bulk pricing for residential trash and recycling service similar to the pricing achieved by homeowners’ associations that contract for trash and recycling services now. Contracting also has the potential to achieve other benefits such as reducing wear and tear on roads, lowering emissions from trash truck traffic, and the ability to negotiate for providing low-income assistance programs and lower emission vehicles serving the community.

    Fort Collins explored moving to a contracted system before. Why are we looking into it again now?

    Fort Collins City Council has made exploring a contracted system a priority based on feedback they’ve heard from the community.

    Some of the things that have changed since contracting was last considered: the number of haulers servicing Fort Collins has decreased, most haulers servicing Fort Collins are nationally owned, and contracting is becoming a more common method of trash and recycling service delivery in Colorado.

    Is Fort Collins considering a municipal hauling utility?

    Fort Collins City Council is not considering a municipal hauling utility. Many of the benefits of a hauling utility can be achieved in a contracted system.

    What are some of the tradeoffs of shifting to a contracted system?

    The City is dedicated to understanding what concerns our community members have in exploring a communitywide contract for trash and recycling collection. We’ve completed comprehensive research into other communities in Colorado and throughout the U.S. that have explored and/or implemented contracted systems. In that research, peer communities have identified the following tradeoffs. It is important to note that most of the peer communities shifted from a pure open market system (meaning the city was not involved in the trash and recycling system at all) to a contracted system. This means that, unlike Fort Collins, they had no city staffing or resources dedicated to trash and recycling. Notes about how that differs from Fort Collins are included below. Peer community-identified tradeoffs include:

    • Residents having to pay an opt-out fee to receive service from a company different than the contracted hauler.
    • Perspective on the ideal role of government – a contracted system shifts the role of local government in the trash and recycling system, which is not supported by some community members.
    • Most peer communities shifted from a pure open market system to a contract, so they didn’t have existing staff with this area of specialty. Depending on the way the contract is set up, the city may also manage billing, customer service, and/or trash and recycling carts, which requires funding for new positions, transition time, logistics.
      • Communities who explored districts had to navigate the logistics of creating districts, managing multiple Request for Proposal (RFP) processes, sorting through pricing differences between districts, etc.

    How would contracting help further adopted plans and goals about waste and recycling collection?

    Contracting would enable actions critical to meeting Fort Collins’ adopted goal to produce zero waste by 2030. Fort Collins 2020 Residential Diversion rate was 29% and the Community Diversion Rate (combining residential, commercial and industrial materials) was 52%.

    Contracting for trash and recycling aligns with several adopted plans and other Council priorities. Those plans include:

    Contracting for single-family, duplex, and small multifamily homes with seven or fewer units for trash, recycling and compost also supports the following adopted Council Priorities:

    • Advance Regionalism: Fort Collins is part of the Regional Wasteshed Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA), which commits partner communities to adopt policies to support waste diversion infrastructure that Larimer County will construct. A yard trimmings and food scraps composting facility, and a construction & demolition recycling facility are critical paths to meeting Fort Collins’ Zero Waste and Climate Action goals. A contract could include flow control: a requirement that all waste in Fort Collins is taken to the Larimer County Landfill. Flow control would guarantee our region continues to have access to a public landfill and is also a baseline commitment for Larimer County to construct the compost and construction & demolition recycling facilities.
    • Accelerate Composting:
      • A contract provides opportunity for additional yard trimmings collection in Fort Collins.
        • Composting, or community-wide organic waste diversion, is a critical path for meeting climate goals.
        • Food scraps can be addressed in a contract in the future as the timing for regional food waste composting becomes clearer.
        • Flow control supports construction of compost facilities as noted above.
      • Flow control supports the construction of compost facilities as noted above.
    • Improve Air Quality: fewer trucks driving along residential roads reduces related air emissions and greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Enhanced Recycling Education: Fort Collins could include educational requirements in a contract for residential trash, recycling and compost service. It would also ensure all residents could have access to the same educational resources and programs.

    What benefits could Fort Collins see from a contracted system that couldn’t be achieved with our current licensed hauler system?

    A contracted system reduces the number of trash and recycling trucks on residential roads, which provides cost savings in street maintenance costs, and improves neighborhood aesthetics with less trash truck noise. Having trash and recycling trucks in neighborhoods only one day per week increases safety, improves air quality, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from fewer trucks operating in neighborhoods.

    A contracted system also provides uniform pricing across the community, where currently community member bills may vary. The efficiency of having one hauler provide service to every house on the street can result in lower costs than in an open market where each hauler might service only a few homes on each street.

    A contracted system can enable equity elements such as providing options to support low-income community members, providing arrangements for less able-bodied residents, and enhancing communication options for all languages spoken in Fort Collins.

    A contracted system typically includes customer service requirements with penalties if the contracted hauler does not meet those requirements.

    Would I still have my choice of size of trash container and recycling included in my service?

    If Fort Collins were to move to a contracted system, residents would still be able to choose between three sizes of trash carts, with a lower bill for a smaller trash cart. Up to two large carts for recycling would continue to be included in your service.

    One of the current conversations the City is asking the community for input on is whether yard trimmings service would be opt-in (as it is now), opt-out, or be bundled with trash service (like recycling service is now). 

    Some haulers currently offer pre-paid bag-based trash service. We are also currently asking the community if they’d like this type of service to continue to be an option.

    To give your thoughts on these topics, take the survey on Priorities for a New System of Trash and Recycling Collection.

    What would the government’s role be in a contracted system?

    The City of Fort Collins would be responsible for overseeing the contract(s) and providing education and outreach. It has not yet been decided if the City would play any role in the billing or customer service processes or would provide the trash/recycling/compost carts

    How would this new system address community concerns like trash truck traffic, environmental impacts, available services, and pricing?

    A contract for one trash and recycling service provider in a neighborhood would decrease the number of heavy trash and recycling trucks on residential roads. A trash truck causes as much wear and tear on a residential road as over 1200 passenger vehicles*, so multiple haulers operating on a street adds up to more road maintenance costs.

    A contract would provide uniform and transparent pricing for households, set customer service requirements for the waste hauling companies, and increase the ability for the City to offer services that reduce waste like yard trimmings or bulky item collection.

    *source: 2008 Trash Services Study Final Report by R3 consulting.

    How many haulers/companies would there be?

    The City has not yet determined if a contract would service the entire City or if the City would be divided into multiple districts. If there are multiple districts, haulers would be able to submit a proposal for each district.

    How long would the contract last?

    This is not yet decided. Other communities have contracts of 3, 5, 7, or 10 years in length with opportunities to end the contract if the service provider is not meeting service requirements.  

    When determining contract length, communities may consider a longer length contract to allow haulers to spread the cost of new equipment over many years which can result in lower prices offered.

    Which households would be included in the contracted system?

    Residential properties with seven or fewer units within Fort Collins City limits would be included in the contracted system (including single-family homes, townhomes, duplexes, and small apartment complexes or condos of up to seven units). Households outside of Fort Collins City limits would not be part of the contract.  

    Homeowners associations (HOAs) that contract for trash and recycling services would either continue to contract on their own so long as they meet all City requirements or may roll into the City contract at the end of their current contract or at a certain date regardless of the HOA contract status. 

    Colorado State Law (scroll to 7.5(a) here for text) prevents local governments from creating contracts for trash services for multifamily or commercial properties, so apartments with eight or more units, businesses, and construction sites would not be part of a contracted system.


    Would my homeowners association be included in the contracted system?

    Homeowners associations (HOAs) that contract for trash and recycling services would either continue to contract on their own so long as they meet all City requirements or may roll into the City contract at the end of their current contract or at a certain date regardless of the HOA contract status.

    Would my apartment/condo be included in the contracted system?

    Apartment or condo complexes with seven or fewer units would be included in the contracted system. Multifamily residential properties with eight or more units would not be included in the contracted system.   

    Colorado State Law (scroll to 7.5(a) here for text) prevents local governments from creating contracts for trash services for multifamily or commercial properties, so mobile home parks, apartments with eight or more units, businesses, and construction sites would not be part of a contracted system. 

    Would I still be able to keep my choice of company?

    Households would still be able to hire their own company for waste hauling services even if the City has a contracted system but would need to pay an opt-out fee. An opt-out fee amount has not been determined.

    Would I receive new trash and recycling carts?

    This is an element that would be determined later in the process, but it’s likely households would receive new trash and recycling carts.

    How would moving to a contracted system affect market competition?

    Rather than competing at the household-by-household level, haulers would be competing at the community level by submitting proposals to service the entire community, or districts in a districted system. At the end of the contract, the City would run a fresh competitive bid process that would enable companies to submit new proposals and enable the community to change service providers. Other Colorado communities with contracts have continued to receive multiple competitive proposals each time they engage in a new round of the competitive bid process.

    Have other cities implemented this type of system?

    More than 70% of U.S. cities use either a contracted system or municipal hauling utility (Fort Collins is not considering a municipal hauling utility). On the Front Range, more than 10 cities have a contracted system for trash and recycling including Commerce City, Dacono, Edgewater, Frederick, Greenwood Village, Golden, Lafayette, Lone Tree, Louisville, Morrison, and Sheridan.

    How much would I pay in the contracted system?

    Fort Collins currently has a Pay-As-You-Throw pricing structure, meaning that your cost for trash and recycling services is bunded and the cost is based on the size of trash cart each household selects. Households that recycle more using their included recycling cart may have less to throw away in their trash cart and can select a smaller, less expensive trash cart. Prices increase as the size of the trash cart increases. The Pay-As-You-Throw pricing structure for trash and recycling services will not change if Fort Collins moves to a contracted system.  

    In a contracted system, a hauler services all the homes on a street in a neighborhood, which provides efficiencies and often leads to a lower service cost per household. This is similar to the bulk rates negotiated by homeowners associations that contract for trash and recycling services.  

    One of the current conversations the City is asking the community for input on is whether yard trimmings service would be opt-in (as it is now), opt-out, or be bundled with trash service (like recycling service is now). Opt-in pricing allows households to select whether they need a service, but that service comes at a higher cost because it’s only provided to some households. Bundled pricing is the most cost-effective way for households to enjoy more services but doesn’t allow households who don’t want the service to reduce their bill by not having the service.  

    To give your thoughts on how yard trimmings services should be included, take the survey on Priorities for a New System of Trash and Recycling Collection. 

    Would this system increase prices for Fort Collins households?

    If Fort Collins were to move to a contracted system, the price per household may decrease due to the efficiencies of a hauler servicing every household on a street rather than a few on each street. However, the specifics of how the contracted price would compare to each household’s bill would depend on the current bill for the household.

    In open market trash and recycling systems (like Fort Collins’ current system), those living in the same city, the same neighborhood, and even right next door to each other can be paying drastically different amounts for the same trash services, even when they have the same hauler. 

    We’re seeking to understand the range of different amounts that our community members are currently paying for their trash services. To support this, consider sharing your trash bill with City staff by taking the Trash Pricing Survey, or emailing a copy of your bill to recycling@fcgov.com

    Note: If you prefer to remain anonymous, please feel free to black out your name and any contact information but please leave your address visible as that is essential to understanding how pricing may vary by location or neighborhood. Your personal information will not be shared publicly – only aggregate information will be shared. 

    How would the city keep prices low/fixed for years to come so they don’t increase every year?

    Any requests for proposal (RFP) drafted by the City would request pricing proposals from haulers for a predetermined amount of time. A hauler could propose a price increase after a set contract length, but the City would have to approve the request. Additionally, the proposed contract language would limit the requested increase and set a capped percentage increase over a set amount of time. 

    Would different districts have different pricing?

    If different haulers were awarded contracts for different districts, the pricing could vary between districts, similar to how the various water districts serving residents in Fort Collis have different prices for water service to homes. 

    Fort Collins has not yet determined if we will have one or multiple trash service districts. 

    What type of waste collection services would be provided in the contracted system?

    If Fort Collins were to move to a contracted system, residents would still be able to choose their size of trash cart, with a lower bill for a smaller trash cart. Up to two large carts for recycling would continue to be included in your service.  

    One of the current conversations the City is asking the community for input on is whether yard trimmings service would be opt-in (as it is now), opt-out, or be bundled with trash service (like recycling service is now).  

    Some haulers currently offer pre-paid bag-based trash service and bulky item collection services. We are also currently asking the community if they’d like these types of services to continue to be an option in a citywide contract. 

    To give your thoughts on these topics, take the survey on  Priorities for a New System of Trash and Recycling Collection. 


    Would the new system include compost for yard and food waste?

    One of the current conversations the City is asking the community for input on is whether yard trimmings service would be opt-in (as it is now), opt-out, or be bundled with trash service (like recycling service is now). 

    Food scraps collection could be addressed in a contract in the future as the timing for regional food waste composting infrastructure becomes clearer. 

    To give your thoughts on these topics, take the survey on Priorities for a New System of Trash and Recycling Collection. 

    What services would accommodate seniors and others with disabilities that cannot pull their trash carts to the curb?

    One of the current conversations the City is asking the community for input on is how to provide arrangements for households that require accommodations for seniors and others with disabilities that cannot pull their carts to the curb or a designated location.

    To give your thoughts on this topic, take the survey on Priorities for a New System of Trash and Recycling Collection. 

    Why do you ask for demographic information in the survey?

    The City gathers demographic information to help improve programs, to determine potential barriers to participation, and to ensure everyone in our community has access to their local government.  

    Demographic information helps us assess what communities we are effectively reaching and who we may need to work harder to reach on important issues. All questions are optional, and any information gathered will be kept completely anonymous.