Santa Rosa’s search for a new garbage hauler is shaping up to be a David-versus-Goliath garbage showdown.
The city has narrowed its list of companies vying for the lucrative contract down to two finalists, and they couldn’t be more different from one another.
The big dog is Waste Management, the largest garbage company in the nation and one that had a strong presence in Sonoma County until the mid-2000s. The publicly traded, Houston-based company serves more than 21 million customers in 48 states and Canada, generating $13.6 billion in revenue last year.
Its scrappy little competitor is GreenWaste Recovery, a San Jose-based company that serves about 20 communities in Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Cruz and Monterey counties. The privately held company, which does not disclose its revenue, was founded in 1991 and serves some of the toniest cities in Northern California, including Pebble Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Capitola.
Noticeably missing from the mix, however, is Recology, the San Francisco-based garbage firm that has agreed to buy The Ratto Group, Sonoma County’s dominant but embattled garbage hauler.
The Ratto Group’s contract to serve the 55, 000 accounts in Santa Rosa runs out at the end of the 2017. Recology officials had hoped to win the new contract with Santa Rosa, one of the company’s largest contracts. It was valued at $24 million annually when it was renewed in 2010, although revenue has likely increased following subsequent rate hikes.
Recology officials say they were “dumbfounded” to hear recently they had fallen out of contention but still plan to move forward with the purchase, said Eric Potashner, vice president and senior director of strategic affairs at Recology.
“Santa Rosa made the transaction more desirable, honestly, but the sale is still something that we’re going to pursue, ” Potashner said.
The competition for the lucrative contract began in late January when five companies submitted bids. The city formed a five-member review panel and got to work sorting through the voluminous presentations.
One bidder, Waste Connections Inc., a Toronto-based company with operations in 37 states and Canada, didn’t make the first cut. That bid was deemed “non-responsive” because it didn’t meet the needs the city outlined in its request for proposals, explained Gloria Hurtado, deputy city manager.
That left four companies: Waste Management, GreenWaste Recovery, Recology and Sonoma County Resource Recovery, a new partnership backed by the owners of garbage companies in Marin and San Jose.
The city’s five-member review panel is made up of three city staff, Councilman John Sawyer, and Patrick Carter, executive director of the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency. The panel studied the proposals in detail and interviewed a team from each bidder in an effort to further flesh out the proposals, Hurtado said.
“I think it’s going well, ” she said, “and I think we’re being very thoughtful in the process and want to make sure we get a good quality and a good price for the residents.”
The city has declined to make the proposals public, or even to name which companies have advanced to the final two.