Urbana’s number of waste haulers cited as environmentally unsustainable, some residents agree

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Republic Services exterior at 2801 N Willow Rd, Urbana, IL 61802) on Sunday, December 19, 2021. Photo by Darrell Hoemann/CU-CitizenAccess

While recycling is controlled in Urbana, trash is not consolidated in the same way, as there are seven licensed haulers for the city of Urbana, all ranging in price and accepted volume. 

The specific haulers are ABC Sanitary Hauling, Chris’ Service Co., Dale Levitt Disposal, Hayden Sanitary Service, Shaffer Sanitary Co., Mel’s Disposal and Republic Services. 

Urbana residents can pick and choose their hauler services, but not all haulers service each part of Urbana. Courtney Kwong, recycling coordinator for Urbana, said the number of haulers isn’t as environmentally sustainable compared with some cities that have franchised services.

“It’s not sustainable,” Kwong said in response to a question about the number of haulers. “We’ve looked into it [in the past] many times as a city and a lot of the communities are franchising services, which is obviously more sustainable in terms of environmental sustainability.”  

Kwong said there were “a lot of mom-and-pop haulers in Champaign County” that rely on Urbana customers for a large portion of their business. One possible issue with franchising is that some of these local businesses may see a reduction or stop in service. 

Member of the community Sarah Scott echoed sentiments about the inefficiency with multiple trash companies and needing to come up with a different solution. 

“I think it would be better if the cities of Champaign and Urbana would either take over trash pickup (just like they do recycling) or contract it out to the existing companies but make it more organized and regulated so that there’s not so much repetition of services to different neighborhoods,” Scott said in a Google Form response to a survey.  

Michael Parrish, another resident who uses Chris’ Service, said “this is hugely inefficient, means there is early morning noise more days per week than if we had the same service and leaves each resident and their neighbors individually on the hook if there is a problem with their service.”

Kwong added that the city recycled over 3,000 tons of material in the 2020 calendar year. She said the community-specific recycling started in 1986 for curbside paper, aluminum and glass pick-up, being one of the first in the state of Illinois through ABC Sanitary Hauling. 

Meredith Moore, sustainability programs manager at the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment (iSEE), oversees the implementation of the Illinois Climate Action Plan objectives on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus. She said that having one hauler is better for the road and is more sustainable because “you’re not working with multiple different haulers trying to be situational or circumstantial. You can work one-on-one to address challenges and find solutions.”

Moore said organic recycling generally makes up about 30% of waste. 

“Recycling, while incredibly important, it’s not the first option,” she said. “What our first option should be is waste minimization and reduction.”

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