A battle over garbage is brewing in Los Angeles, where a panel of city officials has recommended that the City Council approve a new hauling scheme that would grant exclusive contracts for 11 franchise areas.

The debate is one over service, control, costs, choice, and waste versus recycling performance. Supporters of the exclusive contracts contend that creating the exclusive franchises would allow city officials to better regulate how much rate payers must pay, what sort of service they should receive, and how much of their waste should be recycled. They also contend that it is a good opportunity to enforce strict air quality laws – similar to those currently in place at the Port of Los Angeles.

However, a coalition of businesses and community groups has formed hoping to defeat the proposal. They say that the market is regulating itself, and the competition is keeping rates down. In a editorial published in the Los Angeles Times, an author contends that non-exclusive franchises would allow the city to (among other things) “gain some additional control, through standards and sanctions, over the amount of garbage diverted from landfills and safety conditions at recycling centers.”

Similarly, they contest that the exclusive franchises would “be a bad deal for Los Angeles. It would focus new contracting power in City Hall and… eliminate market incentives that keep prices low and service levels high.”

Two city panels approved moving ahead with the exclusive franchises. During the hearings, members of the panels spoke both for and against the new franchises. As reported in the Contra Costa Times, one would speak of the smell of land fills and how the city should work to prevent that from ever inconveniencing people again. Another member would then talk about the importance of garbage collection for small businesses.

The City Council will be the final arbiter on the issue when they take it up.