September 1, 2014

Waste Disposal in Florida

Trash talk: Private and public garbage haulers face off in Southeast Florida

Mike Vogel | 1/10/2012
Miramar trash bin
After becoming dissatisfied with the county process, Miramar decided to award its own contract for disposing of its garbage. [Photo: Bruce Yarock]

Going back a quarter-century, a topic much in the news was what to do with America's garbage. Experts warned of a national disposal crisis with landfill space doomed to run out. A trash-hauling barge from New York traveling the coast looking for a place to dump its load highlighted the issue. Against that backdrop, Broward County and most of its municipalities came up with a grand plan. Waste Management and Wheelabrator, which Waste Management later acquired, won contracts to send most of the garbage to waste-to-energy plants they would build and the rest to landfills. To cover their investment, they got a 20-year lock on the garbage — about 1 million tons per year at prices that reached the $90s per ton but generally ranged from the mid-$50s to mid-$60s per ton.

Now that the 20-year clock has run out, Waste Management and a joint venture of prominent Broward developer and businessman Ron Bergeron and Sun Recycling, an affiliate of Lantana-based Southern Waste Systems, have been fighting over who gets the next long-term deal. Each is politically connected; each says its offer is superior; and their arguments are intricate. "There's going to be a new pathway," says Philip T. Medico Jr., a Sun Bergeron representative.

Miramar, a city of 122,000, decided to begin its own negotiations after becoming dissatisfied with a tortuous county process for picking a winner and put out its own request for proposals onto which other cities can piggyback. Miramar set a late November deadline for best and final offers. Now, other cities will have to make choices. "They have a lot of things they need to decide upon," says Bill Roberts, Wheelabrator's vice president of operations. "We want to continue to do business with these communities."

Cities will see their per-ton disposal charges fall. How much of the savings they pass on to homeowners and businesses is another question.

Tags: Southeast, Energy & Utilities

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