Recycling Wars: Private contractors vs. city workers

October 3, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The mayor plans to privatize four of the six recycling service areas in Chicago. But city workers are being allowed to compete in the other two areas.

"Whoever has the best price, most reliable service, in the end of the day they'll win. But most importantly, the city taxpayers will win," said Emanuel.

The laborers union says the competition give his members an opportunity to prove to the city that union workers can deliver the best service at the best price.

"We're willing to put that on the line, we are putting it on the line, we'll continue to out in the on the line," said Lou Phillips Laborers Union Local 1001.

But "on the line" does not mean one-man trucks, something the two private contractors in the race Waste Management and Sims Metal Management already do.

"The Waste Management team is pretty confident we can do well in Chicago and achieve the productivity levels that we seek," said Bill Plunkett, waste management spokesperson.

"We have less people on our trucks, and in the long run we are going to have less expenses, and I think we will be a lot more efficient," said Jeffrey Cohen, Sims Metal Management .

But the labors union says city employees can still be efficient and competitive with two-man trucks.

"What's going to be brought into this, into the whole measurement of who is cheaper and who is not, is the actual value of the recycling. We get credit for the recycling, which will actually bring our number down," said Phillips.

And while price is the biggest factor, Mayor Emanuel warns all the competitors, it is not the only factor.

"It will be an evaluation of reliability of service, consistency in service and quality in service as well as the price," said Emanuel.

While the two private companies began picking up city recycling Monday, the actual time those contractors and city workers will be evaluated for the two service areas is from January to June. The mayor plans to announce the winner shortly after that.

Residents can have some input by calling 311.

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