CARLSBAD — First-time customers of Republic Services continue to report a bumpy transition amid the trash provider’s service rollout in Carlsbad.
Over the past several weeks, frustrated customers have fumed on social media about the Texas-based company’s apparent lack of customer service, mandatory organic waste requirements (Senate Bill 1383) and new “flimsy” city-owned trash bins. Many were also confused and angry after reporting a 20% rate increase on their first bill from the waste hauler.
The Carlsbad City Council awarded Republic Services a 10-year, $270 million waste contract in April 2021 to replace Waste Management, the city’s previous waste removal company.
Michelle Trostler, who lives in south Carlsbad, said she expected a rate increase from Republic Services due to increases in labor, fuel and other necessities. However, Trostler has reported problems with the company’s customer service and difficulty accessing the autopay billing system, among other issues.
Trostler said she’s tried for nearly two months to get a smaller recycling bin since her son left for college. She’s contacted the company at least four times, put out the bins for them to collect and even tried waving down a passing employee — all to no avail.
“Some people are screaming about totally illegitimate things and others screaming about legitimate things,” Trostler said. “I think the city could’ve communicated it 10 times, and maybe that would’ve helped a little bit. But people just throw this kind of stuff away.”
And she’s not alone. Dozens, if not hundreds, of customers, have described similar experiences with Republic Services, including going weeks without trash bins, difficulty reaching customer service representatives, garbage trucks accidentally crushing bins, wheels falling off trash receptacles and missing accounts in the company’s service “system.”
Additionally, Republic Services has offered a free “kitchen caddy” to customers, but Trostler and others have reported difficulties obtaining the complimentary bin after the company reportedly ran out of stock on the first day.
Ryan Egan, who lives in Carlsbad Village, said bugs, flies, maggots and other pests had overrun his organic waste bins.
Egan, who expressed confusion and frustration over the state’s new organic waste law, questioned why the company he’s paying couldn’t sort the trash and organic waste.
“I haven’t seen any benefit from what we had before,” Egan said about the transition from Waste Management to Republic Services. “The green waste is the biggest challenge. I want to be better in helping the planet, but it’s adding a lot of work for me when it should be on the company to sort that out.”
City, Republic responses
In an email to The Coast News, Republic Services said residential customers are billed once every two months while commercial and multi-family customers receive a monthly bill.
Jamie Wood, the city’s environmental sustainability director, and Avecita Jones, sustainable materials management program director, acknowledged the billing system is a change for customers in the Carlsbad Municipal Water District, who for the last 10 years had received a packaged bill from Waste Management and the water district combining their water, trash and wastewater services.
In response to complaints over the rate increase, the city’s new contract with Republic features several new programs and service options — requested by residents — such as unlimited flattened cardboard and other recyclables outside the cart (recyclables placed inside a separate container). Wood said households also receive a California Redemption Value (CRV) for recycling bottles and cans.
For those who have not yet obtained a kitchen caddy, a Republic spokesperson said they are available at the company’s Palomar Transfer Station at 5960 El Camino Real. The company will also hold three distribution events in the coming weeks and giveaway the bins at various events in the future.
“The optimal way to use the kitchen caddy is to line it with paper (such as newspaper, paper bag or paper towels), layer in food scraps and then cover with another layer of paper,” the company spokesperson wrote. “Do this until full, and then take to your green bin outside. Some best places to store kitchen caddies include the refrigerator, freezer or under the sink.”
For customers reporting abandoned Waste Management trash bins at their homes, Jones said the city asked Republic to do route checks and collect the old containers through the company’s subcontractor.
The ownership of the bins is a bit complex. Republic paid for the new containers, but the city owns them. Moving forward, each container will be assigned to an address in perpetuity, a best practice amongst other municipalities also known as “address “owning.”
Wood said there would be no swapping out bins if the city changed service providers in another 10 years.
“Now, as part of the contract, the bins will stay with the homeowner,” Wood said. “We don’t have to do a full city changeover. We’re trying to keep it from happening again.”
Bins are colored blue, gray and green, as required by state law, so residents can quickly identify the proper container for trash, recycling and organic waste. The bins are 30% recycled plastic, part of Republic Services’ effort to be more environmentally responsible. Republic will replace damaged carts at no cost to customers.
“We are confident the carts will hold up over time and continue to monitor and adjust the hydraulic arms our new fleet uses for collection,” the company said. “If a cart is damaged, customers can call customer service at 760-332-6464 to schedule an exchange.”
For more information on caddy distribution, visit republicservices.com/carlsbadCA.
Residents can call 760-332-6464 to schedule exchanges if necessary. Most cart requests are resolved within three days. Customers can enroll in autopay by visiting republicservices.com/carlsbadCA or calling customer service at 760-332-6464.