Justin Hottel inspects the locks on containers after they were loaded on to a train bound for Eastern Washington in Everett on Tuesday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Justin Hottel inspects the locks on containers after they were loaded on to a train bound for Eastern Washington in Everett on Tuesday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

2 garbage industry giants vie for Snohomish County contract

EVERETT — It’s time for trash talk in Snohomish County.

For several years, two behemoths of the waste-disposal industry have been angling for the job of hauling the county’s garbage to a distant landfill.

Republic Services, formerly known as Allied Waste, has been doing the work since the early 1990s. Republic wants to keep the contract. Its chief rival, Waste Management, hopes to take over.

It’s the biggest single financial decision the county is likely to make anytime soon. Over 20 years, the contract could pay a half-billion dollars. A recommendation is expected as soon as next week.

“This is an essential service to the community,” county solid waste director Matt Zybas said. “We’re a utility that’s providing safe and efficient disposal of waste.”

Zybas is part of an evaluation team poring over bids that Waste Management and Republic Services turned in this spring. They’re scoring the proposals to help the County Council decide whether to start further negotiations with one company or the other. Their conclusion could come out during the council’s public works committee meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday. The panel making the recommendation also includes representatives from local cities, the Snohomish Health District and the Boeing Co.

Republic’s existing contract is set to expire in May of next year.

Garbage picked up at curb sides throughout Snohomish County gets carted off to county transfer stations in Everett, Mountlake Terrace and Arlington. Waste Management and Republic contract for that work in different parts of the county, along with some smaller disposal companies.

At the transfer stations, county workers compact the trash and place it into shipping containers. Tractor-trailer drivers haul the containers, each weighing nearly 30 tons, to a rail yard in northeast Everett.

“We do approximately 60-some containers per day,” said J.R. Myers with the county’s Solid Waste Division.

Republic Services takes over at the rail yard, where the containers get loaded onto trains bound for the company’s landfill in Roosevelt, nearly 300 miles to the east, near the Columbia River. The Roosevelt Regional Landfill covers more than 2,500 acres, about two and a half times the surface area of Lake Stevens.

Waste Management operates a nearby landfill south of the Columbia River, in the community of Arlington, Oregon.

Both companies have considerable clout. Waste Management, based in Houston, is the biggest player in the industry, but Phoenix-based Republic also appears on the Fortune 500 list.

The county now is paying Republic nearly $25 million per year to haul off about 500,000 tons of trash. The volume of waste has gone up with the strong economy.

A new contract would last for 10 years, with two possible five-year extensions.

The county started contracting for long-haul garbage service in 1992, after its Cathcart Landfill near Snohomish ran out of space and had to close. The initial arrangement was with Rabanco, which Allied Waste later acquired.

That contract had been set to expire in May 2013, but the County Council decided to extend the deadline by five years. The extension was the source of acrimony between the council and then-County Executive Aaron Reardon, who wanted to put the work out to bid sooner.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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