Rochester residents to benefit as county unleashes competition between waste haulers

Trash collection isn’t the sort of service that gets most folks worked up, unless there’s a problem. But the prospect of unexpectedly having twice as many trash haulers to choose from this year has some homeowners and residents in Rochester looking forward to taking out the trash. Officials anticipate the increased number of haulers to lead to more competitive rates and options for customers, according to the Post Bulletin.

With the November ordinance change, three new haulers have been licensed for 2023.

“We’re hoping this will add competition and choices for residents,” [Olmsted Co. environmental resources director Tony] Hill said.

Hill said all three — Aspen Waste Systems of Minnesota, Harter’s Disposal and Walters Recycling and Refuse — have indicated they plan to start providing residential and commercial service in Rochester.

It would double the number of residential providers in the city, which is currently served by Waste Management, Hometown Haulers and LRS.

For years under an agreement with haulers, the number of licensed collectors in Olmsted County remained at seven. Several of those companies provide service to commercial customers only. Evidently county officials started hearing from residents who wanted more options and took action to open the door to more competition.

“We’ve been getting a lot of feedback in the community that they want more choices in waste collection,” Hill said of adding trash haulers in Rochester.

At least one long-time hauler embraced the opportunity to go head-to-head with other providers to win over Rochester customers.

Julie Ketchum with Waste Management public affairs said the company supports the free-market approach.

As one of the dominant trash haulers in Rochester’s residential market, she said Waste Management sees the change as a way to allow healthy competition and looks forward to continuing work with local customers under the ordinance changes.

“We like competition,” she said. “We believe it drives better service to residents and businesses, spurs innovation and can reduce costs.”

In recent years Bloomington, St. Paul and a handful of other cities have limited choice for residents by turning to a system called organized collection. The cities restrict the number of haulers and assign them to specific neighborhoods, taking price and choice out of play for individuals. So it’s refreshing to see Olmsted County and Rochester going in the opposite direction in response to residents’ wishes for enhanced competition and choice.

Hill said the added licenses are expected to add competition and flexibility for haulers, which could reduce prices charged to consumers.

The results, he added, could be seen in the upcoming months.

“It will take them a little bit to gear up and market their services,” he said.